Biography Of Rosa Parks
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913 – 2005) was an African American civil rights activist and seamstress that the U.S. Congress dubbed the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement”.
Parks is well-known for her refusal on the 1st December 1955, to abide by bus driver James Blake’s demands that she surrender her seats to a white passenger. The subsequent detention and trial over the protest triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the biggest and most successful mass protests against segregation based on race in history, and brought Martin Luther King, Jr.. who was one of the organizers of the boycott who was at the forefront of the movement for civil rights. Her place in American history has earned her a place in American society and her actions have created a lasting legacy for civil rights movements across the globe.
The early life of Rosa Parks
Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913. Her ancestors came from both Scottish and Irish family lineage as well as an ancestor who was a slave. She was a student at the local rural school and, after 11 years old, she attended the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery. She was later forced to drop out of school to take care of her grandmother.
As a young girl, Rosa became aware of the deep segregation established in Alabama. She was subject to deep-rooted racism and became aware of the different opportunities enjoyed by black and white children. She also remembers watching a Klan Klux Klan parade pass by her house, where her father was outside with an assault rifle. Because of the Jim Crow laws, most black voters were effectively excluded.
She was 19 when she married Raymond Parks, a barber from Montgomery. He was a member of the NAACP in addition, Rosa Parks became a supporter by helping with fundraising and other projects. She was a frequent attendee at meetings to defend the rights of blacks and attempt to stop unfairness.
Biography Of Rosa Parks
Montgomery Bus Boycott
After a busy day at the Montgomery Fair department store, Parks took her Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 1, 1955, located in downtown Montgomery. She paid for her ticket and was seated in a vacant seat in the row of seats in the back that were reserved specifically for people of color who were in the “colored” section, which was in mid-way between the buses, and just in front of the 10 seats by white passengers.
At first, she hadn’t thought to look up the driver of the bus, who was the same person, James F. Blake who had abandoned his wife in the shower in 1943. When the bus traveled through its normal route, all seats for passengers who were white only were filled. The bus made it to the third stop just near Empire Theater. Empire Theater and several white passengers got on the bus.
In 1900 Montgomery adopted a town ordinance to separate passengers based on race. Conductors had the authority to allocate seats for the purpose, but the passengers were not forced to leave or surrender their seats or stand up if the bus was overcrowded and no seats were available. As time passed and according to tradition, however, Montgomery bus drivers were able to adopt the custom of forcing passengers of color to move when they had no white seats available.
By the standard procedure, The bus driver Blake noticed that the front seats of the vehicle were crowded with white passengers, and two or three people were sitting. This is why Blake removed his “colored” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black passengers take their seats in the middle so that white passengers could be seated. In the years following, as he recalled the events of that day, Parks said,
“When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”
According to Parks On Parks’s story, Blake said, “Y’all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats.” Three of them did so. Parks told her story, “The driver wanted us to get up, all five of us. We did not move in the beginning however, he said”Let me have these seats. The three other people also did, but I didn’t.” A black male next to her left his seat. Parks did move, however to the window seat. She did not go into the newly-relocated colored section.
Blake then asked, “Why don’t you stand up?” Parks said, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” Blake demanded police detain Parks. In reminiscing about the incident for Eyes on the Prize, an acclaimed public television show from 1987 about the Civil Rights Movement, Parks stated,
“When I was in my seat, he asked me whether I would rise and I replied”No I’m not. Then he told me, ‘Well if you don’t rise I’ll have to notify the police and get you taken into custody. I replied”You could take that action. ‘”
Biography Of Rosa Parks
In a radio interview in 1956 with Sydney Rogers in West Oakland, Parks was asked why she didn’t decide to leave her seat on the bus. Parks declared, “I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen of Montgomery, Alabama.”
She also explained her motivations through her autobiography My Story:
“People often claim that I didn’t leave my chair because I was exhausted, but this isn’t the case. I wasn’t physically tired or any more tired than I am in the middle of my working day. I wasn’t old, though certain people think of me as older than I was. I was 42 years old. The only tired I had was tired of surrendering.”
If Parks refused to leave the seat, she was in, a cop was able to arrest her. When the officer took off, Parks was able to recall that she inquired “Why do you push us around?” The officer’s reply according to her memory was “I don’t know, but the law’s the law, and you’re under arrest.” Parks later stated, “I only knew that, as I was being arrested, it was the very last time that I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind.”
Parks was accused of violating Chapter 6, Section 11 segregation law in the Montgomery City code, even when she technically had not been in the seat reserved for whites only — she was in a section with color. E.D. Nixon along with Clifford Durr bailed Parks out of jail on the 1st of December.
In the afternoon, Nixon conferred with Alabama State College professor Jo Ann Robinson about Park’s case. Robinson is an active member of the Women’s Political Council (WPC) and stayed up late recording over 35,000 handbills that announced the boycott of buses. This was because the Women’s Political Council was the first organization to support the boycott.
On the 4th of December, 1955 plan of the Montgomery Bus Boycott was announced in black churches throughout the region, and a front-page feature published in The Montgomery Advertiser helped spread the message. At a rally held by the church the night before, people unanimously decided to keep the boycott going until they received the level of respect and courtesy they expected, up to the time the hiring of black drivers and seats in the center of the bus were dealt with according to a first-come, first-served basis.
A few days later, Parks was tried on charges of disorderly conduct as well as violating an ordinance in the local area. The trial took 30 minutes. Parks got her conviction and was sentenced to $10 plus $4 court costs. Parks challenged her verdict, and then formally protested against the legality of segregation based on race. In a 1992 interview, Parks spoke to the National Public Radio’s Lynn Neary, Parks recalled:
“I wanted to not be treated badly, and I certainly wanted to avoid being removed from a seat I had bought. It was the right time… there was an opportunity to stand up and take action to voice my feelings about being treated in such a way. I didn’t plan to be detained. There was plenty I could do without the burden of ending up in jail. However, when I was forced to make that choice I wasn’t hesitant to take it since I believed we’d been through that way for too long. As we continued to give in and complied with this type of treatment and the more pervasive it turned out to be. ”
On the 5th day of December 1955, following the successful conclusion of the one-day boycott sixteen to 18 people met in the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss strategies for boycotts. The group decided that a new organization would be needed to manage the boycott should it be sustained. Rev. Ralph David Abernathy suggested the name “Montgomery Improvement Association” (MIA). The name was chosen, which was when the MIA was established. The MIA’s members elected their president a relative newcomer to Montgomery as well as a young and unpopular minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Monday night, the 50 leaders of the African American community gathered to discuss the best actions to be taken in the wake of Park’s arrest. E.D. Nixon declared, “My God, look what segregation has put in my hands!” Parks was the perfect plaintiff to bring an experiment in the laws of segregation in the state and city. In contrast to fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin, who was unwed and expecting, and was considered unfit to be at the forefront of a civil rights movement, King stated that “Mrs. Parks, on the other hand, was regarded as one of the finest citizens of Montgomery–not one of the finest Negro citizens, but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery.” Parks was happily married and employed, had an elegant and quiet manner, and was an adept politician.
On the day of Park’s trial — the 5th of December, 1955 The WPC handed out 35,000 leaflets. The leaflet reads, “We are…asking every Negro to avoid the busses on Monday, in protest against the trial and arrest . . . You can take a day off from school for a single day. If you’re working, you can use a taxi or walk. Please, both children and adults, don’t take the bus on Monday. Be sure to stay off buses Monday.”
Biography Of Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks on a bus (Dec 1956) following the time that the segregation law was repealed.
It was raining that day however, the black community remained committed to their protest. Some carpools traveled with them as well as black-operated taxis which charged the same price as the bus: 10 cents. The majority of the 40,000 commuters from black took a walk, some as long as up to 20 miles. The boycott was in effect for 382 days. A plethora of buses sat at a standstill for months, affecting the bus transportation business’s finances until the law that required segregation on buses for public use was removed.
The segregationists in some cases reacted with violence. Black churches were either burned or destroyed with dynamite. Martin Luther King’s home was targeted during the early morning in the early hours on January 30 in 1956. E.D. Nixon’s home was also targeted. The protests by the black community’s buses marked one of the biggest and most effective mass movements against racial segregation. It spurred a variety of other protests and helped propel King to the top of his Civil Rights Movement.
By her part in initiating protests, Rosa Parks played a significant role in bringing international awareness of the situation of African Americans and the civil rights struggle. King stated in his publication Stride Toward Freedom that Park’s arrest was the primary reason, not the reason behind the demonstration: “The cause lay deep in the history of other injustices… However, nobody will be able to comprehend the behavior of Mrs. Parks until they realize that, eventually that cup dries over and the human being is screaming, ‘I’m unable to bear it no more. ‘”
It was the Montgomery bus boycott the source of inspiration for the boycott of buses within the township of Alexandria, Eastern Cape of South Africa which was one of the major events that led to an uprising of the majority black population of South Africa under the direction of the African National Congress.
Rosa Parks after the boycott
Following the protest, Rosa Parks became a famous figure and the most prominent advocate of protests for civil rights across the US. After her boycott, she was fired from her job at a department store. In the years following, she worked as a seamstress.
She was employed as a secretary by an African American U.S. Representative John Conyers. She was secretary to him until she retired in 1988. Conyers commented Rosa Parks.
“You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene — just a very special person.” [CNN, 2004″
A few of the prizes Rosa Parks received.
She was chosen to be among those who would get to meet Nelson Mandela on his release from prison in 1994.
She received 1996 the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton
She was awarded the Gold Medal in 1997. was presented with her Congressional Gold Medal – the highest honor bestowed by Congress.
Funerals and deaths
Rosa Parks resided in Detroit until her death aged 92 on the 24th of October, 2005.
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