Contrary to popular belief, Rosa Parks was not sitting in the front of a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus and neither were her feet hurting when a bus driver ordered her, along with three other African-American passengers, to make room for one white man that was standing up on the bus. During the days of segregation in the South, African-Americans were not even allowed to sit in the same row as whites. On Thursday, December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks was asked by a white bus driver “are you gong to stand up?” she simply replied “no.” At that point in Rosa Park’s life, at the age of 42, she wasn’t tired from work-she had seen worse days. The truth is, the only tired Ms. Parks was, was “tired of giving in.” In Rosa Park’s own words, “I made up my mind that I would not give in any longer to legally-imposed racial segregation.”
This single act of courage coupled with the anger with a system that made racism and segregation in the South legal, brought on a year long boycott of Montgomery, Alabama buses. At the time, African-Americans made up 1/3 of Montgomery Alabama’s bus riders, proving that there is also strength in numbers. After a year of walking to work, utilizing the city’s taxis and carpooling, which left the city’s buses virtually empty, the successful boycott put an end to segregated seating laws.
Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913 about forty-five miles east of Montgomery in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1924, Rosa Louise McAuley moved to Montgomery to attend Montgomery Industrial School for Black Girls. Rosa studied all of the major subjects in addition to “domestic science” such as cooking sewing and caring for the sick. It was here that Rosa was also taught the meaning of racial equality. It’s no surprise that most of the schools students, including Rosa, grew up to become Civil Rights activists.
At age eighteen Rosa Louise McCauley met a twenty-eight year old barber and member of the NAACP named Raymond Parks. They married in December 1932 and Rosa Louise McCauley became Rosa Parks. During the years prior to her refusal to stand up on a segregated Montgomery bus, Rosa Parks worked as a nurse’s assistant and a secretary at an air force base. At the time of her arrest she was a seamstress and in Rosa Parks had already joined her husband in the fight against racism and racial segregation by joining the NAACP in 1943 as a volunteer secretary, organizer, researcher and historian.
Rosa Parks worked with the NAACP throughout the decades and she was instrumental in just about every fight, boycott or protest in civil rights history. Until her recent death at the age of 92, Rosa Parks continued to fight for civil rights, she was involved in politics and in 1987 she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in Detroit. The Institute is still active today. Her courageous activist career is a constant reminder to Americans young and old alike that all it takes is a stand, for the right reason, to make a difference.
**Rosa Parks died of natural causes in her home in Detroit on October 24, 2005. She was the second African-American woman in history to refuse to leave her seat in the face of segregation laws. The first African-American woman was Claudette Colvin, who at the age of fifteen, in March of 1955, refused to leave her seat on a segregated bus. Claudette Colvin did not go quietly as Rosa Parks did later that same year, but her actions still had a powerful impact in the minds of civil rights activists, members of the African-American community and of course, the dearly departed Ms. Rosa Parks.