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Rosa Parks

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.

Rosa Parks

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 in."

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 of America.

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.


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