THE STORY OF ROSA PARKS
I would guess that most people have heard the name "Rosa Parks". But how much do we really know about her??
We know her name is synonymous with the Civil Rights movement. We know that she sat at the front of a bus in the "White's Only" section and refused to move. But who is she really?? Where was she born? What was her life like?
That's what this page will try to answer. So here is the story behind the legend of Rosa Parks.
It all started on February 4, 1913. Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Pine Level, Alabama, " a rural town whose black residents were routinely terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan." Rosa remembers her grandfather, a former slave, sitting on the front porch with a rifle just waiting for a Klansman to try something.
"The family stayed clear of Klan rancor, but not of bigotry's other indignities. Though Parks's mother, Leona McCauley, a schoolteacher, made education a priority (Parks's father, James, a carpenter, had left the family when she was 5), she and her brother Sylvester, who died in 1977, were barred from nearby Montgomery's segregated public schools." They enrolled in a special school for blacks, but when Rosa was 16, she had to drop out of school to take care of her grandmother. In 1932, she met and married Raymond Parks (who was very active in the NAACP). They would remain married until his death from cancer in 1977.
Rosa eventually got her highschool diploma at 20 and went on to attend and graduate from Alabama State College. Ten years later she became the unpaid secretary for the NAACP. " 'Everything was segregated then,' she says. 'It was not very pleasant to always face that kind of treatment.' " When a black person wanted to ride a bus in those days, they would go to the front of the bus, pay for the ride, then walk around outside to the back of the bus and find a seat. If the bus was full, and a white person wanted to ride, then a black person would have to give up their seat. Rosa " found the law requiring blacks to surrender their seats to whites on buses so repugnant that she often walked the mile to and from her job as a department store seamstress."
On December 1, 1955, tired from her job as a seamstress in a department store and not wanting to face the walk home, she boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus and " 'tired of being pushed around,' stayed put when the driver, J.P. Blake, demanded she give up her seat. Arrested and released on bond, she made the local paper the next day." She had no idea what this would start. The black community started a boycott of the bus company that lasted 381 days. This had the effect of nearly bankrupting the bus company.
On December 20, 1956, the boycotters were finally able to have their case heard in the Supreme Court. It was ruled that segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.
Rosa, now 85, lives in Detroit, where she and Raymond moved in 1957. After serving for 23 years as assistant to Rep. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan, she has retired, but is still actively committed to the Civil Rights movement. She gives speeches to school groups and spoke at the Million Man March in Washington, DC.
" Parks, who is at work on a second autobiography, remains acutely aware that the battle she helped launch 40 years ago is far from over. 'I don't know how soon that day will come," she says, "but it can't be too soon for me.' "
(Quotes excerpted from UPDATE: ROSA PARKS - "Quiet Crusader")
(Some information found at Rosa Parks)
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