Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist, refused to give her seat in a segregated bus in Montgomery for a white passenger. Her non-compliance started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This movement paved the way for nationwide efforts to stop racial segregation in public facilities.
- 1 Who Was She?
- 2 Early Life and Family
Who Was She?
Rosa Parks or Rosa Louise McCauley was a civil rights leader who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This movement started because she did not give her spot to a white passenger on a segregated bus. This one woman’s bravery paved the way for ending nationwide racial segregation. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People awarded Rosa Parks with the Martin Luther King Jr. The award, the Congressional Gold Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Early Life and Family
Rosa Parks was born on 4th February 1913 in the city called Tuskegee present in Alabama. Her parents are James and Leona McCauley. They got separated when she was just 2 years old. So, Park’s mother took the family to live with her parents in Pine Level present in Alabama. Parks’ grandparents, Rose and Sylvester Edwards, are strongly advocates for racial equality.
Throughout her whole education, Rosa Parks attended only segregated schools. Those schools often lacked basic supplies and have only a single room. Worst of all, African American students have no bus transport to the school while the white students had both bus transportation and a new building as their school.
In 1929, for her secondary education, she attended a laboratory school which was undertaken by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes. But she left midway to look after her mother and grandmother back home.
Rosa Parks did not continue her education after that. But she got work in a shirt factory located in Montgomery. In 1932, she got married, and with her husband’s support, she got her high school degree in 1933.
In 1932, Rosa met and got married to Raymond Parks at the age of 19. He was a barber and an affiliate of the NAACP. After graduation, the parks joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and became active in civil rights issues. She served as a secretary and a youth leader to the NAACP president till 1957. The parks never had any children.
Rosa Parks Arrest
On 1st December 1955, Rosa Parks got arrested for not following a bus driver’s instructions to give her seat to a standing white passenger.
After a day’s hard work, she took the Cleveland Avenue bus to go home. In that bus, she took a spot that was separate for coloured passengers. The Montgomery City Code demanded that every public transportation be segregated. The bus drivers require to assign separate but equal seating for the white and black passengers.
But there is no authority for the drivers to demand a passenger to give their spot to anyone, no matter their colour. But Montgomery bus drivers adopted such a custom by moving back the sign of separation as they see fit. If someone dared to protest, the police could arrest that person.
Since Parks refused to comply with the directions of the bus driver, she got arrested at the scene. They took her to the police headquarters and later released on bail.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
On the day of Parks’ trial, 5th December 1955, the members of the black community were to avoid city buses, to show their objection to her arrest. The organizers believed that this would be successful if they did this for a long time. And that is what they did. For 381 days the boycott lasted and ended with the ruling from the Supreme Court that declared segregation on public transport is unconstitutional.
Many homes of the black community were bombed. More efforts were undertaken to bring the boycott to an end. The people of the black community got arrested under the violation of an antiquated law that prohibits boycotting.
With the recent events, the members of the black community took the problem to court. In 1956, the district court stated that racial segregation laws are unconstitutional. An appeal was done against the court’s decision, but the US Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Because of the boycott, many transit companies suffered huge financial losses. So, they removed the segregation system in public transport. The boycott officially ended on 20th December 1956.
The combination of legal bodies and unrelenting determination of the black community made the Montgomery Bus Boycott a huge success in history against racial segregation.
Life after the Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks faced a lot after her arrest and the boycott. Both she and her husband lost their jobs. Since they were not able to find any work, they moved to Detroit. There she started to work as a receptionist and secretary in the congressional office.
Rosa Parks published an autobiography bearing her name, recounting the time she lived in the segregated south in 1992. Also, she published another book named ‘Quiet Strength’, which has her memoirs.
A hip-hop group with the name Outkast released a song in 1998 under her name ‘Rosa Parks’ which later became a huge hit. Parks filed a case against the group in 1999 for using her name without her permission.
A judge dismissed the case in 2003, and she again refiled based on false advertising claims. On 14th April 2005, the case closed. There was no wrongdoing on the part of the music organizers, and they were to help with work of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute to develop educational programs.
On 24th October 2005, she died in her home in Detroit, at the age of 92. Her death had several memorial services, and an estimation of 50,000 people came to see her. After her death, a chapel was given a new name as Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel.
In her life, Parks received many awards which include the Spingarn Medal and the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Award. President Bill Clinton gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.
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Remembering Rosa Parks
Museum and Park
Troy University constructed a museum in her name in 2000 which is present in Montgomery, Alabama. In 2001, a 3.5 acre Rosa Parks Circle designed by Maya Lin in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Her life story had a movie adaptation starring Angela Bassett, released in 2002.
In celebration of her 100th birthday, a new stamp called the ‘Rosa Parks Forever’ stamp came out.
President Barack Obama unveiled a statue to honour Rosa Parks in February 2013.
Rosa Parks is a great role model for today’s youths because she spoke up for what she believed was right and made extraordinary changes in history.