Here are some facts about Rosa Parks, the African-American civil rights activist known as “the mother of the freedom movement”.
- Rosa Parks was born on 4th February 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama.
- She grew up with racial segregation. Black school children were not allowed to use school buses and had to walk. Transportation companies started to have different seating areas for black and white passengers, and stores and public buildings had different entrances and areas for black and white customers. Those with black skin were treated as second-class citizens and it was very hard for them to register to vote.
- In 1932, Rosa got married to Raymond Parks. Her husband was a member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He encouraged Rosa to go back to school to complete her high school education.
- Rosa Parks joined the Montgomery (Alabama) chapter of the NAACP. She was soon made secretary and became active in the Civil Rights Movement.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott
- A law was passed in Montgomery city in 1900 to segregate the city’s buses. Conductors were given powers to seat passengers according to their race, segregating black passengers from white. It was not part of the law that passengers would be moved or forced to give up their seats if the bus was overcrowded or no other seats were vacant, but conductors were routinely doing this. Black passengers were being forced to give up their seat to white passengers when the white-only seats were full.
- On Thursday 1st December, Rosa Parks got on the 6pm 2857 bus at Dexter Ave and Montgomery St. She paid the fare and found a seat in the section reserved for black people. As more passengers got onto the bus the white-only seats were all taken. In order to seat four white people who had got on at the most recent stop, the driver (James F. Blake) ordered Rosa and three other black people to give up their seats. Three of the black people did as commanded, but Rosa refused to move.
- The bus driver called the police and Rosa Parks was arrested and charged with violating Montgomery City’s segregation law.
- Parks was fined and had to pay court costs. She immediately filed to appeal her conviction, questioning whether racial segregation was legal.
- On 5th December 1955, the day of Rosa’s trail, a one-day boycott of public transport was held by the black community.
- The success of the boycott led to the forming of the Montgomery Improvement Association. A young Martin Luther King was named its president. Several key African-American leaders also met to discuss the appropriate response to the Rosa Parks case.
- The black population of Montgomery carried on the boycott of the buses for over a year. This severely dented the profits made by the bus companies and the city segregation laws were changed following the Browder v. Gayle case.
- Rosa Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, but, due to the fact that she had been labelled an activist, she struggled to find work. In 1965 she was hired as secretary to John Conyers, a black US Representative. She fulfilled this role until 1988.
- She was invited to be part of the group welcoming Nelson Mandela home following his imprisonment.
- The bus Rosa Parks was riding on (the 2857) when she was told to vacate her seat, is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum, Michigan.
- Rosa Parks died at the age of 92 on 24th October 2005.