November 1, 2005 by

Rosa Parks


Categories: Extraordinary People

A few courageous people stand up for what they believe in. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks made her point by sitting down.
In Dec. 1955, the 43-year-old black seamstress took a seat in the front of the “colored” section on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. Tired from a long day of work, she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, even after the bus driver James Blake ordered her to do so. Parks refused to be inconvenienced by the city’s discriminatory segregation laws and was arrested for her impertinence. Four days later, a judge convicted her of disorderly conduct and fined her $14.
Parks’ arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system by black riders, a peaceful protest that was organized by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and led the Supreme Court to strike down Montgomery’s segregated bus law (Browder v. Gayle). The rest of the country continued to abide by the “separate but equal” doctrine until 1964, when the Civil Rights Act required all public accommodations be desegregated.
Born in Tuskegee, Ala., Parks was the daughter of James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona Edwards McCauley, a schoolteacher. She attended Alabama State Teachers College, earned a high school diploma and was married to Raymond Parks, a barber, from 1932 until his death in 1977. Prior to her arrest, Parks worked as a secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and was active in the voter registration movement. Her act of civil disobedience, however, cost Parks her job at the Montgomery Fair department store.
After receiving numerous death threats, Rosa and Raymond relocated to Detroit. She worked on the staff of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) for 20 years, and later co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which helps young people pursue educational opportunities and work toward racial harmony.
Although friends described Parks as quiet, diplomatic and eloquent, the woman known as the “mother of the civil rights movement” could also be a powerful speaker. In fact, she remained active on the lecture circuit well into her 80s. Parks was the subject of the 2002 documentary, “Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks,” which received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary short. She was also honored with numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, and inducted into the Academy of Achievement in 1995.
Parks died on Oct. 24 of natural causes at the age of 92. Her body was flown to Montgomery and then to the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. A procession of city buses, including a vintage Metropolitan bus dressed in black bunting, followed her hearse to the Capitol, and a military honor guard served as her pallbearers. Over the course of two days, more than 30,000 people filed past her casket to pay their respects.
Watch an Interview With Parks
Listen to Tributes From NPR

5 Responses to Rosa Parks

  1. victoria frasier

    she was one of the bravest women on earth. now that she is goin her soul watches ever black person to still check to see if life is still right.

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