"I rejoice that my country recognises that this woman changed the course of American history, that this woman became a cure for the cancer of segregation," said the Reverend Vernon Shannon, 68, pastor of John Wesley African-Methodist-Episcopal Zion in Washington, one of many who rose before dawn on Monday to see the casket.

Elderly women, young couples and small children in the arms of their parents reverently proceeded around the raised wooden casket.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman, Sergeant Jessica Gissubel, said more than 30,000 passed through the Rotunda since Sunday evening, when the viewing began.

Parks, a former seamstress, became the first woman to lie in honour in the Rotunda, sharing the tribute bestowed upon Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy and other national leaders.

Brief ceremony

President George Bush and congressional leaders gathered for a brief ceremony on Sunday night, listening as a choir sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Pallbearers carry the casket of
Parks into the Capitol Rotunda

Parks, who died last Monday at 92, was arrested in 1955 for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, an incident that inspired Martin Luther King Jr and helped touch off the civil rights movement.

Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat in whose Detroit congressional office Parks worked for years, said the ceremony and public viewing showed "the legacy of Rosa Parks is more than just a success for the civil rights movement or for African-Americans. It means it's a national honour".

Parks also was being remembered on Monday at a memorial at the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington and would lie in repose at the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.