Rosa Parks – legendary woman, historical times
By Shirley Sims, 16th MDOS
/ Published February 10, 2006
HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
Rosa Parks changed history forever when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala. city bus on Dec. 1, 1955.
At 42 years old, Mrs. Parks boarded a Montgomery bus after completing a long day at work as a tailor’s assistant at the Montgomery Fair Department store. As all black passengers were required to do at that time, she paid her fare at the front of the bus and re-boarded at the rear of the bus.
Mrs. Parks sat in a vacant seat in the back next to a man and across the aisle from two women. After a few stops, the seats in the front of the bus became full and a white man who had boarded, stood in the aisle.
The bus driver asked Mrs. Parks, the man next to her, and the two women to let the white man have their seats. The others moved, but Mrs. Parks remained seated. The bus driver again asked her to move, but she refused. The driver called the police, and Mrs. Parks was arrested.
Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system by blacks organized by 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. After Parks’ arrest, community leaders spread the word that a one-day bus boycott was scheduled for Dec. 5, 1955.
On that cold and cloudy morning, onlookers watched as the buses drove by with few black passengers on-board. As the days and months passed, there were no black riders. Blacks carpooled, walked and rode bikes for transportation.
The boycott led to a court ruling on Dec. 20, 1956, to desegregate public transportation in Montgomery, but it wasn’t until the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all public accommodations nationwide were desegregated.
Mrs. Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Ala. on Feb. 4, 1913. She was married to Raymond Parks.
Because her entire life was devoted to equal rights, Mrs. Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Rosa Parks died Oct. 24, 2005, of natural causes at her home in Detroit, Mich.