Before the Bus Ride
Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louisa McCauley on February 4, 1913. Her mother taught her to sew and she made many quilts and even her own dresses. Originally, she went to Alabama State Teachers College for Negros to study secondary education but unfortunately, she dropped out to care for her mom and grandma when they both fell ill. Given what she's known for today, it's interesting to note a quote from when she was younger:
"The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a Black world and a White world," she said when she talked about how Black students were forced to walk to school when white students could take the bus.
Even though Parks is known for refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, Parks was an activist earlier in her life as well. She and her husband, Raymond Parks, were members of the NAACP in Montgomery. Because she was the only woman there, she became their secretary. This led her to organize "The Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor" and joined the "League of Women Voters".
A list of children's books featuring the iconic Civil Rights Activist, Rosa Parks.
During the Bus Ride
Park is most recognized for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery City Lines bus. Originally, she was sitting in the designated "colored" section when the bus filled up with both white and Black riders. A few white riders were standing when the bus driver decided to move the "colored" section back a couple of rows. The driver told Parks and three other Black riders that they had to move back to the new "colored" section. The other three Black riders eventually moved and so did Parks. But instead of moving to the "colored" section, Parks moved to the window seat of the bus.
The driver demanded that she moved again but she refused. When he threatened to call the police, she replied, "You may do that."
People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. -Rosa Parks, 'My Story'
Parks was eventually charged for violating the segregation law of Montgomery, despite the fact that she never sat in a white-only seat to begin with. She was bailed out later that evening. Her actions later inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in conjunction with other individuals who had also refused to give up their seats on buses.
After the Bus Ride
Four days after Parks' arrest, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. December 5 was also the day of Parks' trial. She eventually challenged her conviction on the grounds of racial segregation.
Over 40,000 people participated the boycott, refusing the take the bus. This forced them to walk miles to work, carpool or spend extra money on taxis. This shows that Parks' actions were only a catalyst, a spark to lite the flame that had been building for many, many years. The Baton Rouge bus boycott, Claudette Colvin's arrest and the murder of Emmett Till were all influential to not only Parks' decision to remain seated, but also to the actions of the Black community in Montgomery.
The boycott ended officially on December 20, 1956. That means it lasted for a total of 382 days. The boycott was only able to end after the United States Supreme Courts ruled Alabama's racial segregation laws about buses were unconstitutional.
Learn more about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the results of Rosa Park's iconic protest.
Later in Life
While Parks' protest was revolutionary, it hurt her and her husband's personal life. They both lost their jobs and had to eventually leave Alabama. However, when she lived in Detroit, Michigan, Parks became an advocate of housing desegregation, the freedom of political prisoners and Planned Parenthood. She founded the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
Parks passed away on October 24, 2005. The chapel's mausoleum where she was buried was later renamed the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel.
Rosa Parks is one of the most influential and memorable activists in American history. Here are just some of the awards and honors she was awarded in her lifetime:
- Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan was named - 1976
- Martin Luther King Jr. Award - 1980
- Inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame - 1993
- Congressional Gold Medal - 1999
- The medal reads "Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement"
- Troy University dedicated their library to her, the Rosa Parks Library and Museum - 2000