Why She’s Amazing
Rosa Parks didn’t want to be a princess. She wanted to be more.
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa refused to give up her seat in the colored section of a bus to a white passenger after the white section was filled. Her courageous defiance became the symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement. It also earned her the titles of “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” from the United States Congress.
Following Rosa’s refusal to give up her seat, she was convicted of violating segregation laws. Upon this conviction, the leaders of the local black community organized a bus boycott, the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Led by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the boycott lasted more than a year (during which Rosa lost her job) and ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
With one brave choice, Rosa became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength in the struggle to end society-wide racial segregation.
“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” – Rosa Parks
Rosa endured job ramifications, was ostracized by many and even received death threats. Facing continued harassment, she and her family moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Detroit, Michigan.
She persevered, yet it wasn’t until later in life and upon her death that she received the following honors:
- NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal
- Presidential Medal of Freedom
- Congressional Gold Medal
- Posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall
- Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman and second non-U.S. government official to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.
Rosa was always quick to correct the common belief that she wouldn’t give up her seat because she was physically tired. To her, that negates the magnitude of her action. “No,” she says. “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
A True Inspiration
In the years following her retirement, Rosa provided inspiration to future generations by lending her support at civil-rights events.
Every day since that fateful day on the bus, Rosa showed an entire nation the power of courage. As not only a woman, but a black woman in that time, Rosa inspired people to come together regardless of gender and race. While Martin Luther King Jr. led the Civil Rights Movement with vigor, Rosa gave it a powerful spark.
On the surface, Rosa may seem like just one woman. If you look deeper; however, you’ll see that she’s so much more. She’s the face of an ideal that resides within all of us – that one day, one person, with one action can change the world.
- Her birthday, February 4, and the day she was arrested, December 1, have both become Rosa Parks Day.
- She co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, to serve Detroit’s youth.
- Transit authorities in New York City, Washington, D.C. and other American cities symbolically left the seats behind bus drivers empty to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rosa’s act of courage.
- It took her three tries to register to vote in Jim Crow Alabama.
- In 1999, TIME Magazine named Rosa Parks as one of the 20 most powerful and influential figures of the century.
- Rosa had a warm, professional relationship with Dr. King, but she disagreed with many of his decisions.