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Rosa Parks

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Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks in 1955, with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the background
Rosa Louise McCauley

February 4, 1913(1913-02-04)
DiedOctober 24, 2005(2005-10-24) (aged 92)
OccupationCivil rights activist
Known forMontgomery Bus Boycott
Home townTuskegee, Alabama
Spouse(s)Raymond Parks (1932–1977)
Rosa Parks Signature.svg

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African-American civil rights activist. She was called the "Mother of the Modern-Day American civil rights movement" and "the mother of the freedom movement".

Parks is best known for what she did in her home town of Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955. While she sat in a seat in the middle of the bus, the bus driver told her to move to the back of the bus so a white passenger could take the seat in the front of the bus. Parks refused to move. She was a member of the local chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Like so many others she was tired of being treated as a lower class person because of the color of her skin.

She was arrested. This led to the Montgomery bus boycott. The boycott lasted 381 days. This caused a change in the law. After that, black people could sit wherever they wanted to on the bus. Her refusal to let others treat her differently was an important symbol in the campaign against racial segregation.

President Bill Clinton awarding Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Early years

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913.[1] Her parents were James and Leona McCauley.[1] She was mainly of African ancestry. One her great-grandfathers was a Scots-Irish who came to Charleston, South Carolina as an indentured servant.[2] Her father left home to find work when Rosa was 2 years old.[3] Her mother taught school in another town. Rosa and her brother Sylvester were brought up by their grandparents.[3] She started school in 1919 when she was 6 years old. In 1924 she went to the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery Alabama.[4] After 5 years she left school and went to work in a shirt factory.[4] She also took care of her grandmother.

Arrest and conviction

On 1 December 1955 Parks got on a city bus to go home after work.[5] She paid her 10¢ and sat down in the first row of seats behind the painted line on the floor which indicated the black section.[a] After several stops, more white passengers got on the bus. Parks and two others were ordered to give up their seats. The other two moved to the rear of the bus but Parks slid over to the window. She said she was following the law by sitting in the right section. The driver stopped the bus and called police.[5] Two police officers arrested Parks and took her to jail for violating Alabama's bus laws.

Her mother called Edgar Nixon to bail her out. Nixon was the president of the local NAACP chapter. Nixon knew the danger Parks was in and immediately arranged her bail.[5] The local NAACP had been looking for a test case to challenge the bus segregation laws.[5] Parks was a respected working woman. She was well spoken and her case would be a good way to challenge the law. It was decided that on 5 December a boycott of all the busses in Montgomery would be held.[7]

The word was spread throughout the black community of the intended bus boycott. Black ministers told their congregations to support the boycott.[8] On Monday, December 5th, Rosa Parks had to appear in court.[9] It was also the first day black riders would stay off the Montgomery buses. The streets of Montgomery were filled with black people walking to work.[9] Black children walked to school.[9] That same morning all Montgomery buses were assigned two motorcycle policemen to guard against any black gangs intimidating riders.[10] There were no black gangs. The black community simply cooperated with the boycott. The buses remained empty all day. White riders fearing trouble stayed off the buses as well.[10]

In addition to the charge of violating the bus laws she was also charged with disorderly conduct. Her trial was quick, only about 30 minutes. The court found her guilty of all charges and fined her $14.[11] The boycott continued.

Browder v. Gayle

Parks appealed her conviction. Her attorney, Fred Parks, and others in the NAACP brought an appeal named Browder v. Gayle.[b][12] The appeal court ruled on June 19, 1956 in favor of the black citizens of Montgomery. But the city appealed the decision. On September 13, 1956 the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the lower court. The bus boycott ended.[12] It had lasted 381 days.[13] Black citizens of Montgomery could ride the buses and sit where they chose.[12] Rosa Parks rode the bus again on December 21, 1956.[14] This time it was an integrated bus. Ironically she had the same bus driver who had her arrested the year before. In an interview, Parks said "He didn't react (pause) and neither did I".[14] Rosa Parks was a heroine of the black community. While she didn't do it alone, her actions sparked a fire that led to great changes.[15]

Later years

While she was a part of the civil rights movement she suffered a number of difficulties. She lost her job at the department store. Her husband was forced to quit his job. In 1957, Raymond and Rosa Parks left Montgomery for Hampton, Virginia to find work. In Hampton, she found a job as a hostess in an inn at Hampton Institute, a historically black college.


  1. The Montgomery city code made bus drivers segregate white and black passengers. They were directed to assign seats based on a person's color.[5] Black people in Montgomery made up 75 to 80 percent of bus riders.[6] But they were crowded into the back seats of the buses and many had to stand while the front seats remained empty.[6]
  2. Aurelia Browder, another black woman who had been discriminated against by the bus system, was the lead plaintiff. Three other woman joined her but not Rosa Parks. Her legal advisers felt her case could not go beyond the state courts. The case was also named for the lead defendant W.A. Gayle, who was the mayor of Montgomery.[12]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Erika L. Shores, Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Pioneer (Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2005), p. 6
  2. Duncan A. Bruce, The Mark of the Scots: Their Astonishing Contributions to History, Science, Democracy, Literature, and the Arts (Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 1998), p. 271
  3. 3.0 3.1 Muriel L. Dubois, Rosa Parks (Mankato, MN: Bridgestone Books, 2003), p. 7
  4. 4.0 4.1 Erika L. Shores, Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Pioneer (Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2005), p. 9
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Cheryl Fisher Phibbs, The Montgomery Bus Boycott: A History and Reference Guide (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2009), pp. 13–15
  6. 6.0 6.1 Cheryl Fisher Phibbs, The Montgomery Bus Boycott: A History and Reference Guide (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2009), p. 12
  7. Sabrina Crewe, Frank Walsh, The Montgomery Bus Boycott (Milwaukee, WI: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2003), pp. 16–18
  8. Jake Miller, The Montgomery Bus Boycott: Integrating Public Buses (New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2004), p. 9
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Rachel Tisdale, The Montgomery Bus Boycott (New York: PowerKids Press, 2014), pp. 12–13
  10. 10.0 10.1 Joyce A. Hanson, Rosa Parks: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood; Brighton: Roundhouse, 2010), p. 97
  11. Ajay Moholtra (1 June 2008). "Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott". Rosa Parks Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Anne Emanuel, Elbert Parr Tuttle: Chief Jurist of the Civil Rights Revolution (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011), pp. 169–172
  13. Joyce A. Hanson, Rosa Parks: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood; Brighton: Roundhouse, 2010), p. xi
  14. 14.0 14.1 Robert Aitken; Marilyn Aitken, Law Makers, Law Breakers, and Uncommon Trials (Chicago, IL: American Bar Association, 2007), p. 378
  15. Joyce A. Hanson, Rosa Parks: A Biography (Westport, CT: Greenwood; Brighton: Roundhouse, 2010), p. 89

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