Dead People You Should Know: Rosa Parks
Born: Rosa Louise McCauley Parks D.O.B: February 4, 1913 Died: October 24, 2005 Cause of Death: Natural causes Spouse: Raymond Parks Cool Quote: “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.”
In 1955, a brave woman who had had enough, refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. With this act of defiance, Rosa Parks helped spark the Civil Rights Movement and encourage change for black people who were treated as second-class citizens.
On December 1, 1955, Parks was on her way home from work when the bus driver demanded that she and three other black individuals give up their seats for one white man. She refused to move and stood her ground. At the time, blacks were only allowed to sit at the back of the bus and could only sit it the middle rows until those seats needed to be cleared out for whites. Blacks also had to pay their fare and then re-enter through the rear door if whites were already sitting at the front of the bus. On the day she made history, Parks had simply had enough.
Though Parks had been involved in civil rights, she had not intended to get arrested that day in 1955 or become “the mother of the civil rights movement.” She was tired of being humiliated and being mistreated. Her bravery, however, encouraged Dr. Martin Luther King to step up to become a leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Parks’ arrest also led to blacks boycotting public buses for 381 days. The protestors demanded that black drivers be hired, that black citizens be treated with courtesy and that middle seats be available on first-come basis.
On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses in Browder v. Gayle. The boycott ended on December 21st, but violence in Montgomery escalated. The following year, Parks and her family moved to Virginia and then later to Detroit, Michigan. Until 1965, Parks worked as a seamstress. That year, Representative John Conyers Jr. hired her as an aide for his congressional office.
In the ten years prior to her death, Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She was also the subject of school textbooks and perpetuated as an icon of freedom and heroism. Parks was not always comfortable with her status as a symbol of the Movement and said, “Whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone. There were many others who felt the same way.” Rosa Parks died of natural causes on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92.
Rosa Parks changed the face of the nation by refusing to give up her seat that day in Montgomery. She was not a meek woman, she was fighting to free and inspire all oppressed people at a time when she could have been killed for her actions. After her death, Rev. Jesse Jackson said, "She sat down in order that we might stand up. Paradoxically, her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom."