On December 1st, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42-year-old,
black seamstress named Rosa Parks got on a public bus and
took a seat. She later refused to give up that seat when the
bus driver demanded it for a white passenger. Parks was arrested
and fined for a city ordinance violation. This simple rebellion
is credited with starting the civil rights movement which
ended legal segregation in America.
The arrest and the public outcry that followed led to the
formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association and a
boycott of city-run bus transportation.
The boycott was led by a local pastor named Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr. After 382 days of boycotting, a Supreme Court Decision
ruled against the city ordinance requiring black passengers
to give their seats to white passengers, and outlawed racial
segregation on public transportation. The boycott, the ruling,
and the momentum that it gave the civil rights movement obtained
national recognition for Parks and for the work of Dr. King.
Parks was born in 1914 in Alabama. She grew up facing racial
segregation every day of her life. The school she attended
as a girl was burned down twice by arsonists. The Ku Klux
Klan marched down her street while her grandfather guarded
their front door armed with a shotgun. Every day, while Parks
walked to her school, a school bus passed her by taking white
students to their brand new school. Parks grew to accept segregation
as a part of life that she could not change.
In 1932, she married Raymond Parks, a member of the NAACP
and an activist. Raymond convinced Rosa to finish her high
school education. At that time, less than 7-percent of African
Americans had a high school diploma. Parks also registered
to vote, but had to return three times to complete her registration.
At the time of her defiance on the bus, Parks served as the
secretary for the local Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. She
had recently attended a school that advocated on workers'
rights and racial equality. She cites as her main reason for
not giving up her seat as having been "tired of giving
Because of her action and the litigation that followed, Parks
lost her job as a seamstress and spent many years traveling
and speaking for racial equality. In 1965, she took a job
as a secretary and receptionist for African American U.S.
Representative John Conyers in his Detroit office. She served
on the Board of Advocates of the Planned Parenthood Federation
In 1977, to honor her husband after his death, Parks established
the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development
which sponsors an annual teenage summer program called Pathways
to Freedom. President Clinton awarded Parks with the Presidential
Medal of Freedom in 1996, and she received a Congressional
Gold Medal in 1999.
Upon her death in 2005, her casket was placed in the rotunda
of the United States Capitol to allow the nation to pay its
respects. This honor is usually reserved for Presidents and
stood as a symbol of Park's importance as one of the most
famous women in the nation's history.
There is a secret
you don't know
Besides the factual Rosa Parks biography presented above
there is a secret about her that you've just got to know.
When not doing advocacy work, Rosa would slip out of the house
right under her husband's nose to go to the local racetrack
and watch monster trucks roll over Barry Goldwater's chin.