A Determined Activist Rosa Parks
December 1955, it was a cold rainy Thursday evening in Montgomery Alabama. Rosa Parks walks through the dark city streets toward the bus stop. Little did she know that her next few actions would cause one of the biggest movements in America. She was viewed as a strong, determined person and is considered to be the mother of the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who made the decision to not leave her seat on a bus when asked to do so, sparking the beginning of the civil rights movement.
Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama to Leona Edwards and James McCauley. Her parents ended up separating, and her mother took the children with her and moved to Pine Level, Alabama. She was homeschooled until the age of eleven, but when she attended her first public school, she began to realize how much segregation influenced her everyday life. There were separate public restrooms, drinking fountains, education systems, and forms of transportation for the school children. In her later years, she worked as a seamstress and in 1943 she joined the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Parks was a member of the NAACP long before her famous action that sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
She was later elected the secretary of this association. Where she lived, there were many rules regarding segregation, and how people of different races were treated. One example would be that On buses in Montgomery, Alabama (the city in which Rosa Parks lived), the first row of seats were reserved for whites only; while African-Americans, who paid the same ten cent rate as whites, were required to find seats in the back (Rosenberg).
On December 1, 1955, Parks stood up for the idea of equality among all people, and refused her seat when the driver asked her to move, so a white person could have the convenience of being in a seat near the front of the bus. Parks left the Montgomery Fair department store and headed to the Court Square. She boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus. At the time of boarding, her mind was focused on something else, and sat down in the row directly behind the section reserved for white people only. During 1955, bus drivers were permitted to carry guns to enforce segregation laws, but with Parks’ incident, the driver waited outside of the bus until the police arrived. Most passengers got off of the bus, but Rosa Parks did not. She sat patiently inside the bus because she was willing to be arrested. However, it was not because she wanted to be involved in a lawsuit against the bus company, despite knowing the NAACP was looking for the right plaintiff to do so (Rosenberg).
Rosa Parks was fine with being arrested so her actions could leave a larger impact on the idea that segregation is unfair within the rights that different races receive. After her arrest, she was photographed and fingerprinted. The news of her arrest quickly spread around the city. When the NAACP heard about Parks’ arrest, they called for a boycott of the Montgomery public bus. It was to be held on that following Monday. Parks was also asked to be the representative plaintiff in a lawsuit against the bus company, she agreed. Some individuals wondered why Parks did what she did. Many people believe she was too tired to get up, but Parks said that information is not true. She explains, 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 being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in (qtd. in Walker).
After her arrest, the NAACP immediately organized a one-day boycott of the Montgomery buses, on Monday, December 5, to be held by all African Americans. Also on this day, Rosa Parks went to court as a representative for this boycott. She was found guilty within 30 minutes of her trial and was fined a small amount of money. The boycott was originally intended to be a one-day boycott but ended up being very popular amongst black citizens. The boycott’s popularity led to a more expansive boycott of the buses by the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) that lasted 381 days and decimated the buses’ revenue, because about 75 percent of the people who rode buses were black (Walker). The boycott became larger and more successful than expected and became known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The protest ended when bus segregation laws were ruled as unconstitutional.
After the boycott, Parks moved to Virginia and Michigan. She was awarded the Spingarn Medal in 1979 by the NAACP. This award was given for a black person’s achievement. Bill Clinton also awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After her death on October 24, 2005, the US House of Representatives allows Park’s body to lie in honor inside the U.S. Capitol rotunda. She was the 31st person to be given this honor. Rosa Parks left a huge impact on society as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement. This impact was made due to her bravery of bringing racial issues into the open of everyone’s knowledge.
Rosa Parks is still considered as one of the major symbols of the Civil Rights Movement, considering her actions initiated the movement in the United States. After her refusal of giving up her seat, she witnessed a legal movement to end segregation within the United States along with a rise of an African American upper class because of the open approach to looking for good education and occupations.
Rosa Parks was a strong-willed, determined activist during the Civil Rights Movement who put a stop to many racial discriminations and opened up the world to the people of the African American culture. Rosa Parks believed in equality and she left behind a nation she loved, one that has made great strides in its young existence yet still struggles with the same dichotomies that marked her own life (Sanders). Her actions eliminated all legal segregation; however, the overall idea that one race is superior to another will never go away as evident that racism still exists today, but to a smaller extent.
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