Thousands gather to honour Rosa Parks

Rev. Jesse Jackson will deliver the eulogy and Aretha Franklin will sing during Wednesday funeral for civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.

Thousands of people listened to a series of rousing speeches that stirred emotions and evoked the early days of the U.S. civil rights movement as they attended the funeral of Rosa Parks on Wednesday.

Parks died last week at the age of 92.

"Rosa Parks ignited the most significant social movement in American modern history," former U.S. president Bill Clinton told the crowd gathered at Greater Grace Temple, "when at the age of 42 she refused to give up her seat in a region where gentlemen were supposed to give up their seats to ladies."

"She helped to set us all free," he said. "She made us all better people in a better country."

Earlier, people in the pews joined arms, sang We Shall Overcome and swayed to the music, as others approached the casket on the stage, lined with wreaths and other flower arrangements.

Civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson will deliver the eulogy, and soul legend Aretha Franklin will sing during the service at the 4,000-seat church in Parks's adopted hometown.

Activists such as Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam group, and Rev. Al Sharpton were also at the funeral.

Some who arrived to pay their respects started lining up outside the church before dawn. As many as 2,000 seats were reserved for the public to honour Parks, who helped usher in the U.S. civil rights movement by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in 1955.

"The authorities were out to get her, the police were out to get her, the bus driver was out to get her ... but she would not move," said Rev. Charles Adams, senior pastor of the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit.

Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., called Parks a "champion of racial justice" who refused to be intimated by threats of violence as she continued to fight for black civil rights during the Alabama bus boycott.

"Her greatness lies in doing what everybody should do but doesn't do," said Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Parks's casket was moved to the church Wednesday morning after spending the night on view at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Tens of thousands of people filed through to pay their respects.

Earlier in the week, about 30,000 viewed the casket at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, where she was the first woman to lie in honour. Dignitaries, including U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife, attended a Monday memorial service for Parks in Washington.

On Sunday, a memorial service was held for her in Montgomery, Ala., where she defied a city bylaw when a bus driver asked her to give up her seat for a white man, and she refused. Her arrest and $14 fine triggered the bus boycott, led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Parks died on Oct. 24 in Detroit. She will be entombed in a mausoleum at Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery. The bodies of her husband and mother will also be moved there.