Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, an African-American civil rights activist is remembered for refusing to give up her seat in the coloured section of a bus after the white section has was filled. Her refusal to move and the subsequent activism made her an icon of the movement against racial segregation but she initially suffered negative effects for her act.

Early Life

Parks was born as Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1913. Her parents divorced during her early childhood and she moved with her mother to Pine Level nearby Montgomery. Rosa grew up on a farm of her grandparents and attended rural schools. She continued secondary education on a laboratory school but she soon dropped out to care for her grandmother and then her mother.

In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks who was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and encouraged her to continue education. In 1933, she became one of fewer than 7 percent of African-Americans to be awarded a high school diploma. By 1943, Rosa became the civil rights movement activist herself and joined the NAACP where she was elected secretary.

Refusing to Move

In 1944, Rosa began to work at the Maxwell Air Force Base which as federal property didn’t allow segregation. On 1 December 1955, she took a bus in down-town Montgomery. She bought a ticket and sat in the coloured section of the bus, directly behind the section that was reserved for white passengers. The white section filled up along the bus’ regular route and as several white passengers boarded, the bus driver asked Rosa and three other black people sitting directly behind the white section to give up their seats for the white passengers to be able to sit down.

The other three black passengers obeyed but Rosa refused. The bus driver called the police and she was arrested for violating the segregation law of the Montgomery City code although she was sitting in the area that was reserved for coloured passengers. Rosa was tried and found guilty for disorderly conduct and violation of the local ordinance. The civil rights movement organised the so-called Montgomery Bus Boycott, a campaign against racial segregation which lasted from the day of Rosa’s arrest to 20 December 1956 when the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ruled bus segregation as unconstitutional.

Later Life

Parks worked with several civil rights leaders including Edgar Nixon from the NAACP and Martin Luther King, Jr.. Few years later she moved to Detroit and worked as a secretary and receptionist to African-American US Representative John Conyers from 1965 to 1988. In her later years, she lived a private life although she wrote an autobiography and received several awards for her contribution to civil rights movement. She died in 2005 and became the first women and the second African-American person to lie at the Capitol Rotunda.