Rosa Parks

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.

~ from My Story by Rosa Parks

Rosa ParksRosa Parks, “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement,” was an important African American civil rights activist. She lived her life fighting for equal rights for African Americans regardless of consequence. She is most famously known for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, an act that caused her arrest and spawned the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks was born as Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama.  After studying at a rural school in Pine Level, Alabama, Rosa attended the Montgomery Industrial School for girls and the Alabama State Teacher’s College High School.  Due to her grandmother’s and later her mother’s illnesses, Rosa did not finish high school until 1934. Rosa married Raymond Parks on December 18, 1932, who was self-educated due to racial segregation.

Rosa Parks began her civil rights activism by fighting to free the “Scottsboro Boys” in the 1930s. Both Rosa and Raymond held roles in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): Rosa served as secretary and youth leader and Raymond was an active member.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was on her way home from working at the Montgomery Fair department store. On Montgomery city buses, bus drivers were given authority to assign seats in order to segregate passengers according to race. Buses were equipped with a sign that separated the “colored” section—in the back of the bus—from the area of the bus reserved for whites. When Parks boarded the bus, she was seated in the “colored” section, but as the bus became more crowded, the bus driver, James F. Blake, moved the sign further back. He instructed Parks to give up her seat, and when she refused, Blake called the police and Parks was arrested.

Parks’s action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, during which sympathizers of racial equality boycotted Montgomery Buses.  Parks quickly became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, lost her job at the department store, and moved to Detroit, Michigan.

Although she faced hardships for the rest of her life as a result of her courageous actions, Parks has received numerous honors. She has received more than 43 honorary doctorate degrees, was the only living person to be honored with a state holiday (February 4 is Mrs. Rosa Parks Day in Michigan), was voted on of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century, and has received a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. Parks died in Detroit, Michigan on October 24, 2005.

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