Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist and is known as the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement”, “she was the spark that set off the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2009-2014), after two other acts, the Lessy v. Ferguson case which was to keep blacks from whites and the murder of Emmet Till who was killed for supposedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi. She was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama as Rosa Louise McCauley to a carpenter, James McCauley and a teacher, Leona McCauley. At the age of 2 she moved to Pine Level, Alabama to her grandparents’ farm with her mom and her brother who is younger than her, Sylvester. The school that she enrolled to at the age of 11 was founded by women from the northern U.S. who were liberal-minded. It was called the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, and ‘“the school's philosophy of self-worth was consistent with Leona McCauley's advice to "take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were,”’ (American Academy of Achievement, 1996-2014), in which Rosa Parks later agreed that during that time opportunities were few and that it all was about a matter of survival, with memories of the Klan riding at night and hearing lynching and fearing their house being burned down when she was a girl.
After Alabama State Teachers College she settled in Montgomery with her husband Raymond Parks, a civil rights activist and barber, whom she married at 19, and they both joined the NAACP in 1943 where she was elected secretary and served as an advisor to the NAACP youth council. “Mrs. Parks headed the Youth Division at the Montgomery NAACP branch for years,” (NAACP, 2009-2014). They were aiming towards improving the African Americans, in the South that were segregated, lot. Rosa Parks said, “We didn't seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens,"(AAA, 1996-2014). In the same year of 1943 Rosa Parks was forced off of segregated bus for sitting in seat reserved for whites and also James Blake, a bus driver left her in the rain? In 1944 she took a job on an un-segregated Maxwell Air-Force Base.
On December 1, 1955, she incited a revolution by sitting down, starting the beginning of Montgomery Bus Boycott, because through sitting down she was actually standing up against oppression. Rosa Parks had no idea how big of a difference her standing up would make and bring. On the day of December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery. She was tired after spending the day at work as a Seamstress. She sat in the fifth row, “the first row of the ‘colored section’”, of which the ten seats before her were reserved for whites. In the 1900 a city ordinance in Montgomery was passed segregating by race on the bus, but in which no one would have to move or give up their seats if seats were not available. Despite this ordinance Montgomery bus drivers made it to where African Americans would have to move if there were no more white seats available. On this day, due to white seats no longer being available, James Blake ordered for Rosa Parks and three other African-Americans to move and give up their seats to the whites who were standing, moving the “colored section” back more, and unlike the others, Rosa Parks didn’t comply and refused to relinquish her seat to a white man even with the threat of being arrested of which she said that they may do. It is because of her refusal to give up her seat that she was fined and arrested for violating a local ordinance and disorderly conduct, of which she was bailed out by E.D. Nixon, the president of the NAACP, and Clifford and Virginia Durr. She stated in an interview and her autobiography 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, ”’( Biographyonline, n.d.), and she felt that, “The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became,” (Biographyonline, n.d.), which is why she didn’t hesitate to get arrested that day, that of which she did not plan.
The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association led by the minister and preacher of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company lasting 382 days, starting on Monday, December 5, 1955, the day Rosa Parks went on trial and was found guilty. On the same day the Women’s Political Council, whom were the first group that endorsed the boycott officially, leaflet calling for a boycott of Montgomery buses was issued, the handbills announced the boycott, and for everyone to not ride the buses, in which they felt that black passengers should be treated with courtesy, that seating should be on a first come, first serve basis, and that blacks should be hired and African American drivers should drive routes primarily serving African Americans. Announcements of the boycott were announced in black churches along with front page articles being published. “On Monday morning, December 5, 1955, few African Americans rode buses. Most walked to work or school, carpooled with friends, took taxis, or hitchhiked,” (Encyclopedia of Alabama, 2008).
The boycott continued despite Martin Luther King Jr., and his colleague Ralph Abernathy being arrested, four churches and their homes being bombed and violence beginning and continuing. As a result of the bus boycott, 99 percent of African Americans didn’t ride the buses and thousands of dollars in revenue was lost. On November 23, 1956 was the Supreme Court ruling/decision, that of which “struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation,” that of which denied equal rights to blacks, “on public transportation,” (AAA, 1996-2014), and declared it unconstitutional to separate based on race. After this ruling city officials didn’t want to agree to comply with it but they had to. On the same day the Supreme Court banned segregation, she rode at the front of the bus.
“Her subsequent arrest and trial for this act of civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history, and launched Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the organizers of the boycott, to the forefront of the civil rights movement,”(Biographyonline, n.d.). Across the region, in the South, blacks resisted, “moving to the back of the bus.” MLK Jr., devotee of nonviolence, became known and acknowledged as Civil Rights Movement leader, and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), with Ralph, in which was dedicated to fighting Jim Crow segregation. On July 2, 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House. The Civil Rights Act, “outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” (U.S. History, n.d.) It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, workplace and public accommodations. It prohibited, ‘“discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment.” The "Jim Crow" laws in the South were abolished, and it became illegal to force segregation of races in schools, housing, or hiring,”’ (U.S. History, n.d.). Originally for blacks it came to protect the civil rights of everyone in the U.S. In 1957, her and her husband moved to Virginia and then to Detroit, Michigan where she was a staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers in 1965. “After moving to Michigan in 1957, Rosa Parks continued the fight for equal rights and treatment for African Americans. On several occasions, Mrs. Parks returned to Montgomery to support Dr. King in demonstrations and civil rights marches,” (Rosa Park, 2008). An annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award in her honor was established by the SCLC. In 1977 after husband death, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in 1987, and a few years later her mother and brother died also. The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development sponsors an annual summer program for teenagers called Pathways to Freedom, where they get to tour the country and learn the history of it as well as the history of the civil rights movement. (AAA, 1996-2014).
Rosa Parks received a lot of awards and recognition. In 1979 she was awarded the MLK Jr. Award by the NAACP. In 1983 she was inducted into the Michigan’s Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1992 she was awarded the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscious Award and Rosa Parks: My Story autobiography was published. President Clinton presented Rosa Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and in 1998 she retired from the Representative office. (Biographyonline, n.d.) Rosa Parks was awarded the International Freedom Conductor Award by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in 1998 and received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999, one of the highest awards of Congress. The Rosa Parks Library and Museum dedicated at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama in 2000.
On October 24, 2005 in Detroit at the age of 92, Rosa Parks died. Her body was allowed to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, of which she is the only woman and second African American in history to lie in State at the Capitol, it is an honor usually for presidents. (AAA, 1996-2014). There was a statue of Rosa Parks placed in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. in 2006 and on February 10, 2012 a movie, a biography about her life was released, titled The Rosa Parks Story, that of which was played by Angela Bassett. The bus that this incident took place on is at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan in which President Barack Obama sat on April 18, 2012. All of these things mentioned are not even all of the awards, medals and recognition that Rosa Parks received, the list goes on. Throughout all of this, and because of what Rosa Parks did she is considered to be a change agent to this day, and a person that I truly look up to.
I found Rosa Parks to be a change agent because she knew what she wanted and believed in so she didn’t settle anymore instead she went for what she wanted and actually took action. She was on the NAACP fighting for blacks to be treated the same and equally. She was courageous to not give up her seat on the bus which led to a boycott that ended racial segregation on public transportation and resulted to the end of it in other places as well, for example, public accommodations. She started a program bringing awareness to the youth and fellow Americans, of the country and its history, so that they would know and be informed of the history of the civil rights struggle and continue to bring change in the world and reach their highest potential. “She founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to offer guidance to young African Americans in preparation for leadership and careers,” (National Women’s Hall of Fame, 2011).
In relation to Rosa Parks being a change agent, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson said that, ‘“Her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom,"’ (Rosa Park, 2008). Her quiet and courageous act changed America and redirected the course of history. “Park’s action showed how one person could make a big impact. She inspired others, including Martin Luther King Jr., to use non-violence and civil disobedience as a way to protest problems in society,” (Rosa Park, 2008), and because of this method they won in the end. A quote from Rosa Parks in regards to the protest is that, “The only thing that bothered me was that we waited so long to make this protest,” (AAA, 1996-2014). Rosa Parks once said during her 77th birthday celebration in regards to her legacy that, “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people,” (National Women’s Hall of Fame, 2011), which she was successful in being known as. Her legacy will forever live on mainly because of that courageous act of refusing to give up her seat that sparked one of the greatest historical movements ever that brought extreme change to the world.
American Academy of Achievement. (1996-2014). Rosa parks biography: Pioneer of civil rights: Standing up for freedom. Retrieved from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/par0bio-1
Biographyonline. (n.d.). Biography rosa parks. Retrieved from http://www.biographyonline.net/humanitarian/rosa-parks.html
Encyclopedia of Alabama. (2008). Montgomery bus boycott. Retrieved from http://www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/face/Article.jsp?id=h-1567
National Association of the Advancement of Colored People. (2009-2014). NAACP history: Rosa parks. Retrieved from http://www.naacp.org/pages/naacp-history-rosa-parks- mw?source=BSDAds_GoogleSearch_Famous%20Civil%20Rights%20Leaders_Rosa%20Parks-Bio_Rosa%20Parks%20Biography_Phrase_13683514393&gclid=CM3m3uKVlr4CFaMF7AodfX8Aaw
National Women’s Hall of Fame. (2011). Rosa parks. Retrieved from http://www.greatwomen.org/women-of-the-hall/search-the-hall/details/2/116-Parks
Rosa Park. (2008). Rosa parks: The mother of the modern-day civil rights movement. Retrieved from http://www.rosapark.com/rosaparks.htm
U.S. History. (n.d.). Civil right act of 1964. Retrieved from http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h3947.html