Parks, Rosa Louise
Rosa Louise Parks. (Image by PTNFromm, GFDL)

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Parks, Rosa

Rosa Parks

1913–2005

Activist, writer

According to the old saying, "some people are born to greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Greatness was certainly thrust upon Rosa Parks, but the modest former seamstress found herself equal to the challenge. Known as "the mother of the Civil Rights Movement," Parks almost single-handedly set in motion a veritable revolution in the southern United States, a revolution that would eventually secure equal treatment under the law for all black Americans. "For those who lived through the unsettling 1950s and 1960s and joined the civil rights struggle, the soft-spoken Rosa Parks was more, much more than the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a White man in Montgomery, Alabama," wrote Richette L. Haywood in Jet. "[Hers] was an act that forever changed White America's view of Black people, and forever changed America itself."

Became Civil Rights Hero Overnight

From a modern perspective, Parks's actions on December 1, 1955, hardly seem extraordinary: tired after a long day's work, she refused to move from her seat in order to accommodate a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery. At the time, however, her defiant gesture actually broke a law, one of many bits of Jim Crow legislation that relegated blacks to second-class citizenship. Overnight Rosa Parks became a symbol for hundreds of thousands of frustrated black Americans who suffered outrageous indignities in a racist society. As Lerone Bennett, Jr. wrote in Ebony, Parks was consumed not by the prospect of making history, but rather "by the tedium of survival in the Jim Crow South." The tedium had become unbearable, and Rosa Parks acted to change it. Then, she was an outlaw. She has since become a hero.

Parks was born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. When she was still a young child her parents separated, and she moved with her mother to Montgomery. There she grew up in an extended family that included her maternal grandparents and her younger brother, Sylvester. Montgomery, Alabama, was hardly a hospitable city for blacks in the 1920s and 1930s. As she grew up, Rosa was shunted into second-rate all-black schools, such as the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, from which she had to leave before graduating to help care for sick relatives. She also dealt daily with laws governing her behavior in public places. Ms. magazine contributor Eloise Greenfield noted that Rosa always detested having to drink from special water fountains and having to forgo lunch at the whites-only restaurants downtown. Still, wrote Greenfield, "with her mother's help, Rosa was able to grow up proud of herself and other black people, even while living with these rules … People should be judged by the respect they have for themselves and others, Mrs. McCauley said. Rosa grew up believing this."

At twenty Rosa married a barber named Raymond Parks in 1932. The couple both held jobs and enjoyed a modest degree of prosperity. Encouraged by her husband, Mrs. Parks completed her high school education in 1934. In her spare time, Mrs. Parks became active in the NAACP and the Montgomery Voters League, a group that helped blacks to pass a special test so they could register to vote. By the time she reached mid-life, Rosa Parks was no stranger to white intimidation. Like many other Southern blacks, she often boycotted the public facilities marked "Colored," walking up stairs rather than taking elevators, for instance. She had a special distaste for the city's public transportation, as did many of her fellow black citizens.

The Jim Crow rules for the public bus system in Montgomery almost defy belief today. Black customers had to enter the bus at the front door, pay the fare, exit the front door and climb aboard again at the rear door. Even though the majority of bus passengers were black, the front four rows of seats were always reserved for white customers. Bennett wrote: "It was a common sight in those days to see Black men and women standing in silence and silent fury over the four empty seats reserved for whites." Behind these seats was a middle section that blacks could use only if there was no white demand. However, if so much as one white customer needed a seat in this "no- man's land," all the blacks in that section had to move. Bennett concluded: "This was, as you can see, pure madness, and it caused no end of trouble and hard feeling." In fact, Parks herself was once thrown off a bus for refusing to endure the charade of entry by the back door. In the year preceding Parks's fateful ride, three other black women had been arrested for refusing to give their seats to white men. Still the system was firmly entrenched, and Parks would often walk to her home to spare herself the humiliation of the bus.

Quietly Refused to Move

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks had a particularly tiring day. She was employed as a seamstress at the Montgomery Fair department store, and she had spent the day pressing numerous pairs of pants. She has since admitted that her back and shoulders ached terribly that day—she was forty-two at the time—and she deliberately let one full bus pass in order to find a seat on the next one. The seat she eventually found was in the middle section of the bus, because the back was filled. A few stops further down the line, a white man got on and demanded a seat. The driver ordered Parks and three other black customers to move. The other riders did as they were told, but Parks quietly refused to give up her place. The driver threatened to call the police. Parks said: "Go ahead and call them."

Bennett wrote: "There then occurred one of those little vignettes that could have changed the course of history. The [police] officers asked the driver if he wanted to swear out a warrant or if he wanted them to let Rosa Parks go with a warning. The driver said he wanted to swear out a warrant, and this decision and the convergence of a number of historical forces sealed the death warrant of the Jim Crow South."

At a Glance …

Born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, AL; died on October 24, 2005, in Detroit, MI; daughter of James (a carpenter) and Leona (a teacher) McCauley; married Raymond Parks (a barber, died 1977), 1932. Education: Attended Montgomery Industrial School for Girls; Alabama State College.

Career: Montgomery, Alabama, numerous jobs, 1933–57, including seamstress at Montgomery Fair Department Store; Detroit, Michigan, seamstress, 1957–65; administrative assistant to United States Congressman John Conyers, 1965–88; director, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, Detroit, Michigan, 1987–1990s.

Memberships: NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Distinguished Sons and Daughters of the Civil Rights Movement.

Awards: Numerous honorary degrees; major thorough fare in Detroit is named after her; SCLC sponsors an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award; Spingarn Medal, NAACP, 1979; Martin Luther King Jr. Award, 1980; Service Award, Ebony, 1980; Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, 1980; The Eleanor Roosevelt Women of Courage Award, Wonder Women Foundation, 1984; Medal of Honor, awarded during the 100th birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty, 1986; Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award, 1987; Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Legislative Achievement Award, 1990; Medal of Freedom Award, presented by President Bill Clinton, 1996; Rosa Parks Peace Prize; honored with Day of Recognition by Wayne County Commission; International Freedom Conductor Award, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, 1998; Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Freedom Award, 1999; U.S. Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, 1999; Governor's Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage, Alabama, 2000; lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda, 2005.

Parks was driven to the police station, booked, finger-printed, and jailed. She was also photographed as she was being fingerprinted, a snapshot that has since found its way into history textbooks. Parks was granted one telephone call, and she used it to contact E. D. Nixon, a prominent member of Montgomery's NAACP chapter. Nixon was properly outraged, but he also sensed that in Parks his community might have the perfect individual to serve as a symbol of Southern injustice. Nixon called a liberal white lawyer, Clifford Durr, who agreed to represent Parks. After consulting with the attorney, her husband, and her mother, Rosa Parks agreed to undertake a court challenge of the segregationist law that had led to her arrest.

Word of Parks's arrest spread quickly through Montgomery's black community, and several influential black leaders decided the time was ripe to try a boycott of the public transportation system. One of these leaders, the reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., used the mimeograph machine at his Baptist church to make 7,000 copies of a leaflet advertising the boycott. The message of the leaflet was plain: "Don't ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or any place Monday, December 5 … If you work, take a cab, or share a ride, or walk."

Actions Inspired Bus Boycott

The black boycott of Montgomery's city buses was almost universal on December 5, 1955. A meeting on the subject that evening drew an overflow crowd numbering in the thousands, and a decision was made to continue the boycott indefinitely. On Tuesday, December 6th, Parks was found guilty of failure to comply with a city ordinance and fined $14. She and her attorney appealed the ruling while the boycott wore on. Ebony correspondent Roxanne Brown wrote: "For 381 days, Blacks car-pooled and walked to work and church. Their unified effort not only helped put an end to Jim Crow sectioning on the buses, it was also financially devastating for the bus company. It was this monumental event—watched by the world—that triggered the modern-day Black Freedom Movement and made a living legend of Mrs. Parks."

Thrust into the limelight, Parks suddenly found her life opened to the public. Parks and her family received numerous threats and almost constant telephone harassment. The strain actually caused Raymond Parks to suffer a nervous breakdown. In 1957 Rosa and Raymond Parks (and Rosa's mother) moved north to Detroit, Michigan. If Rosa Parks was safer in Detroit, she was never quite allowed to recede into anonymity. As the years passed she was sought out repeatedly as a dignified spokesperson for the civil rights movement. A number of universities awarded her honorary degrees, and Detroit congressman John Conyers persuaded her to join his staff in 1965. In 1988, upon Parks' retirement from her job with Conyers, Roxanne Brown noted: "Thirty-two years after she attracted international attention for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Parks's ardent devotion to human rights still burns brightly, like a well-tended torch that ignites her spirit and calls her to service whenever she is needed."

Remained a Humble Leader

Age did not rob Rosa Parks of her beauty and grace, nor did it restrict her travels and activities. She continued to make some 25 to 30 personal appearances per year throughout her 70s and was a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa. Her crowning achievement, however, remains the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which she founded in Detroit in 1987. The institute offers career training for 12- to 18-year-olds with special attention to education and motivation. "Too many young people are not staying in school and taking advantage of the opportunities they have," Parks told Ebony. "They're not motivated to learn what is necessary to get the good positions, the good jobs, to go into business for themselves."

In February of 1990 Parks received yet another round of adulation as she was honored at Washington's Kennedy Center on her seventy-seventh birthday. Tribute chairperson C. Delores Tucker praised Parks for her "beautiful qualities" of "dignity and indomitable faith that with God nothing can stop us." In typical fashion, Parks received the tribute with all due modesty—throughout the years, she took little credit for her role in the history of the civil rights movement. Asked to reveal the secret of her positive attitude, she told Ebony: "I find that if I'm thinking too much of my own problems, and the fact that at times things are not just like I want them to be, I don't make any progress at all. But if I look around and see what I can do, and go on with that, then I move on."

Meanwhile, awards in her honor continued to roll in. She received the prestigious Medal of Freedom Award from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Jet quoted the president at the awards ceremony: "When she sat down on the bus, she stood up for the American ideals of equality and justice and demanded that the rest of us do the same." In 1998 Parks received the first International Freedom Conductor Award given by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. A year later she was awarded the Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Freedom Award for her contribution to the cause of freedom and peace. During the dedication Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer was quoted by PR Newswire as saying, "Her dignity and grace has inspired generations of freedom fighters and defenders of human rights."

Received Awards, Gave Back to Community

In July of 1999 the U.S. Congress awarded Parks the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the nation's highest civilian award. In accepting the award at a ceremony in the nation's capital presided over by President Bill Clinton, Parks said, as quoted Jet, "This medal is encouragement for all of us to continue until all people have equal rights." The first recipient of this award was George Washington. Other recipients include Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. The following September, Parks was inducted in to the Alabama Academy of Honor, an organization that recognizes Alabama citizens for their contribution to the state. Later that same year she was awarded the first Governor's Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage from Alabama Governor Donald Seigelman.

In December of 2000 Troy State University in Montgomery, Alabama dedicated a library and museum in Parks's name. Despite frail health she was able to attend the ceremony thanks to a prominent African-American attorney who flew her there on his private jet. The museum features a replica of the bus she was sitting on that fateful day in December 1955 and recounts the conversation between Parks and the bus driver who demanded she give up her seat. Meanwhile, the actual bus where it all took place was bought by Dearborn, Michigan's Henry Ford Museum for $492,000 in 2001. Upon the museum's acquisition of the bus, Parks attended a private viewing where the museum pledged to restore the bus to its 1955 appearance, which it did by 2003. In January of 2002 Rosa Parks's former Alabama home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, a federal building in Detroit was named in honor of Parks.

Legacy Lives on in Books, Film

The message of Parks's life continues to be told through books and film. In 1992 she published a children's book entitled Rosa Parks: My Story. It is a chronology of her life leading up to the monumental day in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. The book is a historical reminder to children that the freedoms they enjoy today were hard won. She wrote in the book, "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired but that wasn't true. I was not tired physically … I was not old … I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in." Five years later, she and author Jim Haskins, reissued the book for a younger audience. Full of colorful illustrations and age-appropriate definitions of concepts such as segregation and racism, the newly titled book, I Am Rosa Parks, allows children as young as four to grasp the importance of the civil rights movement.

In 2002 CBS released the television movie The Rosa Parks Story starring Angela Bassett in the title role. The film recounted her early life, the incident on the Montgomery bus in 1955, and her role in the civil rights movement, as well as her relationship with her husband Raymond Parks. "I chuckled many times about the courtship scene," Parks told Jet. Filmed in Alabama, it was the first film about her life made with her participation.

Despite her fame and prestige in her community, Parks had plenty of difficult experiences throughout the rest of her life. In September of 1994 a 28 year-old man broke into Parks's Detroit home and robbed and beat her. He was caught the next day. With characteristic grace, Parks was quoted in Jet as saying of the attack, "I regret very much that some of our people are in such a mental state that they would hurt and rob an older person." A few years later Parks found her name being used for a song title on the rap group OutKast's third album. She had not given her consent and in April of 1999 filed a lawsuit requesting her name removed from all OutKast products and asking for $25,000. In an ironic twist, the group hired the attorney for Martin Luther King Jr.'s estate to defend them. In a November 1999 decision that raised both public and press outrage, a judge ruled against Parks, stating that OutKast's use of her name was protected under the First Amendment. Parks's lawyers filed to reinstate her lawsuit in 2001, and the Supreme Court ruled in December 2003 that the suit could indeed be heard. OutKast was eventually dropped as a defendant, but in August 2004 a separate suit was filed against the record companies with which OutKast is affiliated and against stores that sold OutKast's records; a settlement was reached in 2005. Another case involving the misuse of her name started in 2000 when Parks discovered that a third party had registered the Internet domain name www.rosaparks.com and was offering it for sale. According to her attorney, quoted in PR Newswire, "We sent a cease and desist letter to the registered owner of the Web site and demanded the transfer of ownership to Mrs. Parks. The transfer is now being made."

Nearly half a century after making a decision to continue sitting on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus, Rosa Parks had developed into a legend. Though she was oft quoted as saying that she didn't set out that day in December 1955 to make history, she did. And in doing so, she also changed it. "She sat down in order that we might stand up," Rev. Jesse Jackson said in an interview with the New York Times upon the news of her death in October of 2005. "Paradoxically, her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom." Parks died on October 24, 2005; her legacy continues on and is felt every day by Americans of all backgrounds, races, and creeds.

Selected works

Books

(With Jim Haskins) Rosa Parks: My Story, Dial Books, 1992.
(With Gregory J. Reed) Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today's Youth, Lee & Low Books, 1996.
(with Jim Haskins) I Am Rosa Parks, Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997.

Sources

Books

Brinkley, Douglas G. Rosa Parks, Penguin, 2000.

Grant, Callie Smith, Free Indeed: African-American Christians and the Struggle for Equality, Barbour, 2003.

Greenfield, Eloise, Rosa Parks, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973.

Kohl, Herbert, She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, New Press, 2005.

Parks, Rosa, with Gregory J. Reed, Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation, Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Roop, Peter, and Connie Roop, Take a Stand, Rosa Parks, Scholastic, 2005.

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, February 1993, p. 24.

Detroit Free Press, October 14, 2004.

Ebony, August 1971; September 1977; February 1988; January 2006.

Entertainment Weekly, December 19, 2003.

Essence, May 1985.

Jet, March 5, 1990; September 19, 1994, p. 22; September 23, 1996, p. 4; July 5, 1999, p. 32; December 13, 1999, p. 4; December 18, 2000, p. 8; September 18, 2000, p. 24; December 17, 2001, p. 10; February 25, 2002, p. 58; May 2, 2005, p. 17; November 21, 2005, p. 6.

Maclean's, August 3, 1998, p. 22.

Ms., August 1974.

Newsweek, November 12, 1979; December 26, 2005, p. 122.

New York Times, October 25, 2005, p. A1; October 26, 2005, p. A20.

PR Newswire, June 30, 1999; September 19, 2000; April 16, 2001; October 26, 2001.

Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1997, p. 402.

Smithsonian, December 2005, p. 34.

Vanity Fair, January 2006, p. 89.

On-line

Troy State University Rosa Parks Library and Museum, http://montgomery.troy.edu/museum (March 15, 2006).

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Parks, Rosa 1913–

Rosa Parks 1913

Civil Rights activist

Grew Up Amid Racism

Refused to Give Up Seat on Bus

Inspired Bus Boycott

Founded Institute in Detroit

Awarded Congressional Medal of Honor

Story Made Into TV Movie

Sources

According to the old saying, some people are born to greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Greatness was certainly thrust upon Rosa Parks, but the modest former seamstress has found herself equal to the challenge. Known today as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Parks almost singlehandedly set in motion a veritable revolution in the southern United States, a revolution that would eventually secure equal treatment under the law for all black Americans. For those who lived through the unsettling 1950s and 1960s and joined the civil rights struggle, the soft-spoken Rosa Parks was more, much more than the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a White man in Montgomery, Alabama, wrote Richette L. Haywood in Jet. [Hers] was an act that forever changed White Americas view of Black people, and forever changed America itself.

From a modern perspective, Parkss actions on December 1, 1955 hardly seem extraordinary: tired after a long days work, she refused to move from her seat in order to accommodate a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery. At the time, however, her defiant gesture actually broke a law, one of many bits of Jim Crow legislation that assured second-class citizenship for blacks. Overnight Rosa Parks became a symbol for hundreds of thousands of frustrated black Americans who suffered outrageous indignities in a racist society. As Lerone Bennett, Jr. wrote in Ebony, Parks was consumed not by the prospect of making history, but rather by the tedium of survival in the Jim Crow South. The tedium had become unbearable, and Rosa Parks acted to change it. Then, she was an outlaw. Today she is a hero.

Grew Up Amid Racism

Parks was born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. When she was still a young child her parents separated, and she moved with her mother to Montgomery. There she grew up in an extended family that included her maternal grandparents and her younger brother, Sylvester. Montgomery, Alabama, was hardly a hospitable city for blacks in the 1920s and 1930s. As she grew up, Rosa was shunted into second-rate all-black schools, such as the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, and she faced daily rounds of laws governing her behavior in public places. Ms. magazine contributor Eloise Greenfield noted that Rosa always detested having to drink from special water fountains and having to forgo lunch at the whites-only restaurants downtown. Still, wrote Greenfield, with her mothers help, Rosa was able to grow up proud of herself and other black people, even while living with these rules. People should be judged by the respect they have for themselves and others, Mrs. McCauley said. Rosa grew up believing this.

At twenty Rosa married a barber named Raymond Parks. The couple both held jobs and enjoyed a modest degree of prosperity. In her spare time, Mrs. Parks became active in the NAACP and the Montgomery Voters League, a group that helped blacks to pass a special test so they could register to vote. By the time she reached mid-life, Rosa Parks was no stranger to

At a Glance

Born February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama; daughter of James (a carpenter) and Leona (a teacher) McCauley; married Raymond Parks (a barber), c. 1933. Education: Attended Montgomery Industrial School for Girls; AL State College.

Career: Employed in Montgomery, Alabama, in a series of jobs, 1933-57, including seamstress at Montgomery Fair Department Store; moved to Detroit, Michigan, 1957; became administrative assistant to United States Congressman John Conyers, 1965-88; director of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, Detroit, Michigan; author, Rosa Parks: My Story, 1993.

Memberships: NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Distinguished Sons and Daughters of the Civil Rights Movement.

Awards: Numerous honorary degrees; major thoroughfare in Detroit is named after her; SCLC sponsors an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award; Spingam Medal, NAACP, 1979; Martin Luther King Jr Award, 1980; Service Award, Ebony, 1980; Martin Luther King Jr Nonviolent Peace Prize, 1980; The Eleanor Roosevelt Women of Courage Award, Wonder Women Foundation, 1984; Medal of Honor, awarded during the 100th birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty, 1986; Martin Luther King Jr Leadership Award, 1987; Adam Clayton Powell Jr Legislative Achievement Award, 1990; Rosa Parks Peace Prize; honored with Day of Recognition by Wayne County Commission; U.S. Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, 1999.

white intimidation. Like many other Southern blacks, she often boycotted the public facilities marked Colored, walking up stairs rather than taking elevators, for instance. She had a special distaste for the citys public transportation, as did many of her fellow black citizens.

The Jim Crow rules for the public bus system in Montgomery almost defy belief today. Black customers had to enter the bus at the front door, pay the fare, exit the front door and climb aboard again at the rear door. Even though the majority of bus passengers were black, the front four rows of seats were always reserved for white customers. Bennett wrote: It was a common sight in those days to see Black men and women standing in silence and silent fury over the four empty seats reserved for whites. Behind these seats was a middle section that blacks could use only if there was no white demand. However, if so much as one white customer needed a seat in this no-mans land, all the blacks in that section had to move. Bennett concluded: This was, as you can see, pure madness, and it caused no end of trouble and hard feeling. In fact, Parks herself was once thrown off a bus for refusing to endure the charade of entry by the back door. In the year preceding Parkss fateful ride, three other black women had been arrested for refusing to give their seats to white men. Still the system was firmly entrenched, and Parks would often walk to her home to spare herself the humiliation of the bus.

Refused to Give Up Seat on Bus

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks had a particularly tiring day. She was employed as a seamstress at the Montgomery Fair department store, and she had spent the day pressing numerous pairs of pants. She has since admitted that her back and shoulders ached terribly that dayshe was forty-two at the timeand she deliberately let one full bus pass in order to find a seat on the next one. The seat she eventually found was in the middle section of the bus, because the back was filled. A few stops further down the line, a white man got on and demanded a seat. The driver ordered Parks and three other black customers to move. The other riders did as they were told, but Parks quietly refused to give up her place. The driver threatened to call the police. Parks said: Go ahead and call them.

Bennett wrote: There then occurred one of those little vignettes that could have changed the course of history. The [police] officers asked the driver if he wanted to swear out a warrant or if he wanted them to let Rosa Parks go with a warning. The driver said he wanted to swear out a warrant, and this decision and the convergence of a number of historical forces sealed the death warrant of the Jim Crow South.

Parks was driven to the police station, booked, fingerprinted, and jailed. She was also photographed as she was being fingerprinted, a snapshot that has since found its way into history textbooks. Parks was granted one telephone call, and she used it to contact E. D. Nixon, a prominent member of Montgomerys NAACP chapter. Nixon was properly outraged, but he also sensed that in Parks his community might have the perfect individual to serve as a symbol of Southern injustice. Nixon called a liberal white lawyer, Clifford Durr, who agreed to represent Parks. After consulting with the attorney, her husband, and her mother, Rosa Parks agreed to undertake a court challenge of the segregationist law that had led to her arrest.

Inspired Bus Boycott

Word of Parkss arrest spread quickly through Montgomerys black community, and several influential black leaders decided the time was ripe to try a boycott of the public transportation system. One of these leaders, the reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., used the mimeograph machine at his Baptist church to make 7, 000 copies of a leaflet advertising the boycott. The message of the leaflet was plain: Dont ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or any place Monday, December 5. If you work, take a cab, or share a ride, or walk.

The black boycott of Montgomerys city buses was almost universal on December 5, 1955. A meeting on the subject that evening drew an overflow crowd numbering in the thousands, and a decision was made to continue the boycott indefinitely. On Tuesday, December 6th, Parks was found guilty of failure to comply with a city ordinance and fined $14. She and her attorney appealed the ruling while the boycott wore on. Ebony correspondent Roxanne Brown wrote: For 381 days, Blacks car-pooled and walked to work and church. Their unified effort not only helped put an end to Jim Crow sectioning on the buses, it was also financially devastating for the bus company. It was this monumental eventwatched by the worldthat triggered the modern-day Black Freedom Movement and made a living legend of Mrs. Parks.

It is not necessarily easy to be a living legend, however. Parks and her family received numerous threats and almost constant telephone harassment. The strain actually caused Raymond Parks to suffer a nervous breakdown. In 1957 Rosa and Raymond Parks (and Rosas mother) moved north to Detroit, Michigan. If Rosa Parks was safer in Detroit, she was never quite allowed to recede into anonymity. As the years passed she was sought out repeatedly as a dignified spokesperson for the civil rights movement.

A number of universities have awarded her honorary degrees, and she earned a prestigious job on the staff of Detroit congressman John Conyers. In 1988 Roxanne Brown noted: Thirty-two years after she attracted international attention for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Parkss ardent devotion to human rights still burns brightly, like a well-tended torch that ignites her spirit and calls her to service whenever she is needed.

Founded Institute in Detroit

Age has not robbed Rosa Parks of her beauty and grace, nor has it restricted her travels and activities. She still makes some twenty-five to thirty personal appearances per year. Her crowning achievement, however, is the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which she founded in Detroit. The institute offers career training for 12-to 18-year-olds with special attention to education and motivation. Too many young people are not staying in school and taking advantage of the opportunities they have, Parks told Ebony. Theyre not motivated to learn what is necessary to get the good positions, the good jobs, to go into business for themselves.

In February of 1990 Parks received yet another round of adulation as she was honored at Washingtons Kennedy Center on her seventy-seventh birthday. Tribute chairperson C. Delores Tucker praised Parks for her beautiful qualities of dignity and indomitable faith that with God nothing can stop us. In typical fashion, Parks received the tribute with all due modestyto this day she takes little credit for her role in the history of the civil rights movement. Asked to reveal the secret of her positive attitude, she told Ebony: I find that if Im thinking too much of my own problems, and the fact that at times things are not just like I want them to be, I dont make any progress at all. But if I look around and see what I can do, and go on with that, then I move on.

The woman known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement has continued to inspire well into her eighties. Rosa Parks remains committed to her Detroit-based foundation, The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development and has overseen programs such as Pathways to Freedom, which encourages young people to learn about their heritage and reach their potential. In 1998 she spent five days in Nova Scotia in support of the program.

Meanwhile, awards in her honor have continued to roll in. She received the prestigious Medal of Freedom award from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Jet quoted the president at the awards ceremony: When she sat down on the bus, she stood up for the American ideals of equality and justice and demanded that the rest of us do the same. In 1998 Parks received the first International Freedom Conductor Award given by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. A year later she was awarded the Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Freedom Award for her contribution to the cause of freedom and peace. During the dedication Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer was quoted by PR Newswire as saying, Her dignity and grace has inspired generations of freedom fighters and defenders of human rights.

Awarded Congressional Medal of Honor

In July of 1999 the U.S. Congress awarded Parks the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the nations highest civilian award. In accepting the award at a ceremony in the nations capital presided over by President Bill Clinton, Parks said, as quoted Jet, This medal is encouragement for all of us to continue until all people have equal rights. The first recipients of this award was George Washington. Other recipients include Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. The following September Parks was inducted in to the Alabama Academy of Honor, an organization that recognizes Alabama citizens for their contribution to the state. Later that same year she was awarded the first Governors Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage from Alabama Governor Donald Seigelman.

In December of 2000 Troy State University in Montgomery, Alabama dedicated a library and museum in Parkss name. Despite frail health she was able to attend the ceremony thanks to a prominent African-American attorney who flew her there on his private jet. The museum features a replica of the bus she was sitting on that fateful day in December 1955 and recounts the conversation between Parks and the bus driver who demanded she give up her seat. Meanwhile, the actual bus where it all took place was bought by Dearborn, Michigans Henry Ford Museum for $492, 000 in 2001. Upon the museums acquisition of the bus, Parks attended a private viewing where the museum pledged to restore the bus to its 1955 appearance.

In April of 2001 the Rosa Parks Initiative was kicked off in Detroit. Sponsored by a non-profit organization, the initiative hopes to build an $8 million monument complete with one million roses and an interactive history of the Civil Rights movement in that citys Belle Isle park. In January of 2002 Rosa Parks former Alabama home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The message of Parkss life also continues to be told through books and film. In 1993 she published a childrens book entitled Rosa Parks: My Story. It is a chronology of her life leading up to the monumental day in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. The book is a historical reminder to children that the freedoms they enjoy today were hard won. She wrote in the book, People always say that I didnt give up my seat because I was tired but that wasnt true I was not tired physically I was not old. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. Four years later, she and author Jim Haskins, reissued the book for a younger audience. Full of colorful illustrations and age-appropriate definitions of concepts such as segregation and racism, the newly titled book, I Am Rosa Parks, allows children as young as four to grasp the importance of the Civil Rights Movement.

Story Made Into TV Movie

In 2002 CBS released the television movie The Rosa Parks Story starring Angela Bassett in the title role. The film recounted her early life, the incident on the Montgomery bus in 1955, and her role in the Civil Rights movement, as well as her relationship with her husband Raymond Parks. I chuckled many times about the courtship scene, Parks told Jet. Filmed in Alabama, it was the first film about her life made with her participation.

Not all of Parkss recent experiences have been honorary. In September of 1994 a 28 year-old man broke into Parkss Detroit home and robbed and beat her. He was caught the next day. With characteristic grace, Parks was quoted in Jet as saying of the attack, I regret very much that some of our people are in such a mental state that they would hurt and rob an older person. A few years later Parks found her name being used for a song title on the rap group OutKasts third album. She had not given her consent and in April of 1999 filed a lawsuit requesting her name removed from all OutKast products and asking for $25, 000. In an ironic twist, the group hired the attorney for Martin Luther King Jr.s estate to defend them. In a decision that raised both public and press outrage, the judge ruled against Parks, stating that OutKasts use of her name was protected under the First Amendment. However, in another case involving the misuse of her name, Parks was the victor. In 2000 she discovered that a third party had registered the internet domain name www.rosaparks.com and was offering it for sale. According to her attorney, quoted in PR Newswire, We sent a cease and desist letter to the registered owner of the Web site and demanded the transfer of ownership to Mrs. Parks. The transfer is now being made.

In 2002, nearly half a century after making a decision to continue sitting on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus, Parks is a living legend. Though she was oft-quoted as saying that she didnt set out that day in December 1955 to make history, she did. And in doing so, she also changed it. Her legacy is felt every day by Americans of all backgrounds, races, and creeds.

Sources

Books

Greenfield, Eloise, Rosa Parks, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973.

Periodicals

Black Enterprise, February 1993, p. 24.

Ebony, August 1971; September 1977; February 1988.

Essence, May 1985.

Jet, March 5, 1990; September 19, 1994, p. 22; September 23, 1996, p. 4; July 5, 1999, p. 32; December 13, 1999, p. 4; December 18, 2000, p. 8; September 18, 2000, p. 24; December 17, 2001, p. 10; February 25, 2002, p. 58.

MacLeans, August 3, 1998, p. 22.

Ms., August 1974.

Newsweek, November 12, 1979.

PR Newswire, June 30, 1999; September 19, 2000; April 16, 2001; October 26, 2001.

Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1997, p. 402.

Mark Kram and Candace LaBalle

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Kram, Mark; LaBalle, Candace. "Parks, Rosa 1913–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. 27 May. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kram, Mark; LaBalle, Candace. "Parks, Rosa 1913–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (May 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873700053.html

Kram, Mark; LaBalle, Candace. "Parks, Rosa 1913–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2003. Retrieved May 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873700053.html

Parks, Rosa 1913—

Rosa Parks 1913

Civil rights activist

At a Glance

Jim Crow Laws

Rev. King Organized Bus Boycott

Still Active in the Struggle

Sources

According to the old saying, some people are born to greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. Greatness was certainly thrust upon Rosa Parks, but the modest former seamstress has found herself equal to the challenge. Known today as the mother of the modern civil rights movement, Parks almost singlehandedly set in motion a veritable revolution in the southern United States, a revolution that would eventually secure equal treatment under the law for all black Americans. For those who lived through the unsettling 1950s and 1960s and joined the civil rights struggle, the soft-spoken Rosa Parks was more, much more than the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a White man in Montgomery, Alabama, wrote Richette L. Haywood in Jet. [Hers] was an act that forever changed White Americas view of Black people, and forever changed America itself.

From a modern perspective, Parkss actions on December 1, 1955 hardly seem extraordinary: tired after a long days work, she refused to move from her seat in order to accommodate a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery. At the time, however, her defiant gesture actually broke a law, one of many bits of Jim Crow legislation that assured second-class citizenship for blacks. Overnight Rosa Parks became a symbol for hundreds of thousands of frustrated black Americans who suffered outrageous indignities in a racist society. As Lerone Bennett, Jr. wrote in Ebony, Parks was consumed not by the prospect of making history, but rather by the tedium of survival in the Jim Crow South. The tedium had become unbearable, and Rosa Parks acted to change it. Then, she was an outlaw. Today she is a hero.

Parks was born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. When she was still a young child her parents separated, and she moved with her mother to Montgomery. There she grew up in an extended family that included her maternal grandparents and her younger brother, Sylvester. Montgomery, Alabama, was hardly a hospitable city for blacks in the 1920s and 1930s. As she grew up, Rosa was shunted into second-rate all-black schools, such as the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, and she faced daily rounds of laws governing her behavior in public places. Ms. magazine contributor Eloise Greenfield noted that Rosa always detested having to drink from special water fountains and having to forgo lunch at the whites-only

At a Glance

Born February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, AL; daughter of James (a carpenter) and Leona (a teacher) McCauley; married Raymond Parks (a barber), c. 1933. Education: Attended Montgomery Industrial School for Girls.

Employed in Montgomery, AL, in a series of jobs, 1933-57, including seamstress at Montgomery Fair Department Store. Moved to Detroit, Ml, 1957; became administrative assistant to United States Congressman John Conyers. Currently director of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, Detroit.

Member: NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Distinguished Sons and Daughters of the Civil Rights Movement.

Awards: Has received numerous awards and tributes, including a dozen honorary degrees; honored by several community awards, including Rosa Parks Community Service Award and Rosa Parks Scholarship. A major thoroughfare in Detroit is named after Mrs. Parks.

restaurants downtown. Still, wrote Greenfield, with her mothers help, Rosa was able to grow up proud of herself and other black people, even while living with these rules. People should be judged by the respect they have for themselves and others, Mrs. McCauley said. Rosa grew up believing this.

At twenty Rosa married a barber named Raymond Parks. The couple both held jobs and enjoyed a modest degree of prosperity. In her spare time, Mrs. Parks became active in the NAACP and the Montgomery Voters League, a group that helped blacks to pass a special test so they could register to vote. By the time she reached mid-life, Mrs. Parks was no stranger to white intimidation. Like many other Southern blacks, she often boycotted the public facilities marked Colored, walking up stairs rather than taking elevators, for instance. She had a special distaste for the citys public transportation, as did many of her fellow black citizens.

Jim Crow Laws

The Jim Crow rules for the public bus system in Montgomery almost defy belief today. Black customers had to enter the bus at the front door, pay the fare, exit the front door and climb aboard again at the rear door. Even though the majority of bus passengers were black, the front four rows of seats were always reserved for white customers. Bennett wrote: It was a common sight in those days to see Black men and women standing in silence and silent fury over the four empty seats reserved for whites. Behind these seats was a middle section that blacks could use only if there was no white demand. However, if so much as one white customer needed a seat in this no-mans land, all the blacks in that section had to move. Bennett concluded: This was, as you can see, pure madness, and it caused no end of trouble and hard feeling. In fact, Rosa Parks herself was once thrown off a bus for refusing to endure the charade of entry by the back door. In the year preceding Mrs. Parkss fateful ride, three other black women had been arrested for refusing to give their seats to white men. Still the system was firmly entrenched, and Mrs. Parks would often walk to her home to spare herself the humiliation of the bus.

On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks had a particularly tiring day. She was employed as a seamstress at the Montgomery Fair department store, and she had spent the day pressing numerous pairs of pants. She has since admitted that her back and shoulders ached terribly that dayshe was forty-two at the timeand she deliberately let one full bus pass in order to find a seat on the next one. The seat she eventually found was in the middle section of the bus, because the back was filled. A few stops further down the line, a white man got on and demanded a seat. The driver ordered Parks and three other black customers to move. The other riders did as they were told, but Parks quietly refused to give up her place. The driver threatened to call the police. Parks said: Go ahead and call them

Bennett wrote: There then occurred one of those little vignettes that could have changed the course of history. The [police] officers asked the driver if he wanted to swear out a warrant or if he wanted them to let Rosa Parks go with a warning. The driver said he wanted to swear out a warrant, and this decision and the convergence of a number of historical forces sealed the death warrant of the Jim Crow South.

Parks was driven to the police station, booked, fingerprinted, and jailed. She was also photographed as she was being fingerprinted, a snapshot that has since found its way into history textbooks. Parks was granted one telephone call, and she used it to contact E. D. Nixon, a prominent member of Montgomerys NAACP chapter. Nixon was properly outraged, but he also sensed that in Rosa Parks his community might have the perfect individual to serve as a symbol of Southern injustice. Nixon called a liberal white lawyer, Clifford Durr, who agreed to represent Parks. After consulting with the attorney, her husband, and her mother, Rosa Parks agreed to undertake a court challenge of the segregationist law that had led to her arrest.

Rev. King Organized Bus Boycott

Word of Parkss arrest spread quickly through Montgomerys black community, and several influential black leaders decided the time was ripe to try a boycott of the public transportation system. One of these leaders, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., used the mimeograph machine at his Baptist church to make 7,000 copies of a leaflet advertising the boycott. The message of the leaflet was plain: Dont ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or any place Monday, December 5. If you work, take a cab, or share a ride, or walk.

The black boycott of Montgomerys city buses was almost universal on December 5, 1955. A meeting on the subject that evening drew an overflow crowd numbering in the thousands, and a decision was made to continue the boycott indefinitely. On Tuesday, December 6, Parks was found guilty of failure to comply with a city ordinance and fined $14. She and her attorney appealed the ruling while the boycott wore on. Ebony correspondent Roxanne Brown wrote: For 381 days, Blacks car-pooled and walked to work and church. Their unified effort not only helped put an end to Jim Crow sectioning on the buses, it was also financially devastating for the bus company. It was this monumental eventwatched by the worldthat triggered the modern-day Black Freedom Movement and made a living legend of Mrs. Parks.

It is not necessarily easy to be a living legend, however. Mrs. Parks and her family received numerous threats and almost constant telephone harassment. The strain actually caused Raymond Parks to suffer a nervous breakdown. In 1957, Rosa and Raymond Parks (and Rosas mother) moved north to Detroit, Michigan. If Rosa Parks was safer in Detroit, she was never quite allowed to recede into anonymity. As the years passed she was sought out repeatedly as a dignified spokesperson for the civil rights movement.

A number of universities have awarded her honorary degrees, and she earned a prestigious job on the staff of Detroit congressman John Conyers. In 1988, Roxanne Brown noted: Thirty-two years after she attracted international attention for sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mrs. Parkss ardent devotion to human rights still burns brightly, like a well-tended torch that ignites her spirit and calls her to service whenever she is needed.

Still Active in the Struggle

Age has not robbed Rosa Parks of her beauty and grace, nor has it restricted her travels and activities. She still makes some twenty-five to thirty personal appearances per year and is a vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa. Her crowning achievement, however, is the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which she founded in Detroit. The institute offers career training for 12- to 18-year-olds with special attention to education and motivation. Too many young people are not staying in school and taking advantage of the opportunities they have, Mrs. Parks told Ebony. Theyre not motivated to learn what is necessary to get the good positions, the good jobs, to go into business for themselves.

In February of 1990 Parks received yet another round of adulation as she was honored at Washingtons Kennedy Center on her seventy-seventh birthday. Tribute chairperson C. Delores Tucker praised Parks for her beautiful qualities of dignity and indomitable faith that with God nothing can stop us. In typical fashion, Parks received the tribute with all due modesty to this day she takes little credit for her role in the history of the civil rights movement. Asked to reveal the secret of her positive attitude, she told Ebony: I find that if Im thinking too much of my own problems, and the fact that at times things are not just like I want them to be, I dont make any progress at all. But if I look around and see what I can do, and go on with that, then I move on.

Sources

Books

Greenfield, Eloise, Rosa Parks, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1973.

Periodicals

Ebony, August 1971; September 1977; February 1988.

Essence, May 1985.

Jet, March 5, 1990.

Ms., August 1974.

Newsweek, November 12, 1979.

Mark Kram

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Rosa Lee McCauley Parks

Rosa Lee McCauley Parks

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Lee Parks (née McCauley; born 1913) refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger on a racially segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus. She was arrested and fined but her action led to a successful boycott of the Montgomery buses by African American riders.

Born Rosa McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913, the young girl did not seem destined for fame. Her mother was a teacher and her father, a carpenter. When she was still young she moved with her mother and brother to Pine Level, Alabama, to live with her grandparents. A hard-working family, they were able to provide her with the necessities of life but few luxuries while attempting to shield her from the harsh realities of racial segregation. Rosa attended the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, graduated from the all-African American Booker T. Washington High School in 1928, and attended Alabama State College in Montgomery for a short time.

She married Raymond Parks, a barber, in 1932. Both Rosa and her husband were active in various civil rights causes, such as voter registration. Parks worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council and in 1943 was elected to serve as the secretary of the Montgomery branch. This group worked to dismantle the barriers of racial segregation in education and public accommodations but made little progress during the 1940s and early 1950s. In the summer of 1955 white friends paid Parks' expenses for a two-week interracial seminar at Tennessee's Highlander Folk School, a program designed to help people to train for civil rights activism.

Parks worked at various jobs over the years—as a housekeeper, an insurance saleswoman, and a seamstress. In 1955, while working at Montgomery Fair department store as a tailor's assistant, she discovered her name in the headlines. On the fateful night of December 1st, she was very tired as she headed for her bus, but had no plans for initiating a protest. According to the segregation laws in Montgomery, white passengers were given the front seats on the bus. Even if no white riders boarded, African Americans were not allowed to sit in those seats. If white passengers filled their allotted seats, African American riders—who had to pay the same amount of bus fare—had to give their seats to the whites. All of the bus drivers were instructed to have African Americans who disobeyed the rules removed from the bus, arrested, and fined. Some of the bus drivers demanded that African Americans pay their fares up front, get off the bus, and reenter through the back doors so that they would not pass by the seats of white patrons.

On December 1, 1955, Parks, who had taken a seat directly behind the white section, was asked to yield her seat to white passengers. Parks recognized the driver as one who had evicted her from a bus 12 years before when she refused to reenter through the back door after paying her fare. The bus driver threatened to have her arrested but she remained where she was. He then stopped the bus, brought in some policemen, and had Parks taken to police headquarters.

Certainly her case was not a unique; African Americans had been arrested for disobeying the segregation laws many times before. However, in 1954 the Supreme Court had rendered an important decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which held that educational segregation was inherently illegal. The decision encouraged African Americans to fight more boldly for the end of racial segregation in every area of American life. Thus, NAACP officials and Montgomery church leaders decided that Parks' arrest could provide the necessary impetus for a successful bus boycott. They asked Montgomery's African American riders—who comprised over 70 percent of the bus company's business—to stop riding the buses until the company was willing to revise its policies toward African American riders and hire African American bus drivers.

Meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the ministers and their congregations formed the Montgomery Improvement Association and elected the young Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. as president. The boycott was extremely successful, lasting over 380 days. When the case was taken to the Supreme Court, the Justices declared that segregation of the Montgomery buses was illegal and officially desegregated them on December 20, 1956.

Parks and some of her family members, fired by their employers or continually harassed by angry whites, decided in 1957 to move to Detroit, Michigan. There they had a great deal of difficulty finding jobs, but Parks was finally employed by John Conyers, an African American member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She served as his receptionist and then staff assistant for 25 years while continuing her work with the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and serving as a deaconess at the Saint Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Parks received numerous awards, including an honorary degree from Shaw College in Detroit, the 1979 NAACP Spingarn Medal, and an annual Freedom Award presented in her honor by the SCLC. In 1980 she was awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize and in 1984 the Eleanor Roosevelt Women of Courage Award. In 1988 she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, to train African American youth for leadership roles, and began serving as the institute's president. In 1989 her accomplishments were honored at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Parks was in demand as a public speaker and traveled extensively to discuss her role in the civil rights movement.

In September 1994 Parks was beaten and robbed in her Detroit home. She fully recovered from this incident and remained active in African American issues. In October 1995 she participated in the Million Man March in Washington D.C., giving an inspirational speech.

Fellow civil rights leaders, friends, and family of Parks, expressed concern about her demanding schedule and finances in September 1997. They were unable to get answers from Parks' attorney, Gregory Reed, and personal assistant, Elaine Steele, who together had formed The Parks Legacy, a corporation that controlled the public property rights to Parks' image. According to court records, the "selling" of Parks included fees for autographs and pictures of the civil rights legend, her appearance in a rock video, and her image on a phone-calling card. An article in the Detroit News noted, "Civil rights leaders and marketing experts fear the products cheapen Parks' image and legacy as the mother of the civil rights movement."

Further Reading

Virtually no history of the modern civil rights movement in the United States fails to mention the role of Rosa Parks. She tells her own story in The Autobiography of Rosa Parks (1990). Others relate her history in a book entitled Don't Ride the Bus on Monday by Louise Meriwether (1973) and in two children's books, one by Eloise Greenfield, Rosa Parks (1973) and another by Kai Friese, Rosa Parks (1990). Among several interesting works specifically relating to the boycott is Jo Ann Robinson's The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It (1987). Also see the Detroit News (August 29, 1997, and September 28, 1997). □

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Parks, Rosa Louise

Rosa Louise Parks, 1913–2005, American civil-rights activist, b. Tuskegee, Ala., as Rosa Louise McCauley. A seamstress and long-time activist-member of the Montgomery, Ala., chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), her Dec. 1, 1955, arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man sparked the Montgomery bus boycott. This successful protest, which lasted just over a year, marked the emergence of Martin Luther King, Jr., to national prominence as a civil-rights leader and provided the model for future nonviolent movement actions. Fired from her job and unable to find work, Parks moved in 1957 to Detroit, where she remained active in the civil-rights movement and worked (1965–88) as an aide to Congressman John Conyers. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest honor, in 1999.

See her autobiography (1992); biography by D. Brinkley (2000) and J. Theoharis (2013).

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