Rosa Parks - Death, Quotes, Bus Boycott

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who became famous for her refusal to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white passenger. The bus was segregated at the time. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was started as a direct result of her defiance. Because of its effectiveness, initiatives began to end the racial segregation of public facilities nationwide.

Who Was Rosa Parks?

Rosa Parks was a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. She was responsible for the Montgomery Bus Boycott after she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white passenger. Her bravery inspired people all around the country to work toward ending racial segregation. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave Parks the Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Additionally, the President of the United States presented Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Early Life and Family

Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her full name was Rosa Parks. When Parks was two years old, her parents, James McCauley and Leona McCauley divorced. The Parks family relocated to Pine Level, Alabama, so that the mother of Parks’ mother could be closer to her parents, Rose and Sylvester Edwards. Parks’ grandparents had been enslaved at one point and were ardent supporters of racial equality. Parks’ family resided on the farm owned by the Edwards, where she spent her childhood.

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During her upbringing, Parks was exposed to racial injustice, which inspired her to become an activist for racial equality. In one incident, Parks’ grandfather was armed with a shotgun and stood guard in front of the family home as members of the Ku Klux Klan marched down the street.

Education

Throughout the entirety of her education, Parks attended separate but equal schools. Parks’ mother taught her to read when she was very young, and when she was old enough, she enrolled in a one-room, segregated school in Pine Level, Alabama, which frequently lacked necessary equipment such as tables. African American pupils were made to walk to the one-through-sixth-grade schoolhouse, while white students in the city of Pine Level were supplied with bus transportation and a brand new school facility.

Parks enrolled in Montgomery’s Industrial School for Girls at 11 years old and remained there until graduation. In 1929, while Parks was in the 11th grade and attending a laboratory school for secondary education led by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes, she dropped out of school to care for her grandmother and mother, who were both ill. Parks’ family lived in Pine Level at the time.

Parks did not go back to continue her education. She instead found employment in a shirt factory in Montgomery, Alabama. She got married in 1932, and with the help of her new spouse, she graduated from high school the following year, 1933.

Marriage

At the age of 19, Parks wed Raymond Parks, a barber who was also a prominent member of the NAACP. Raymond Parks was born in 1902.

After graduating from high school with Raymond’s support, Parks became involved in civil rights issues by joining the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943. She served as the chapter’s youth leader and the secretary to NAACP President E.D. Nixon, a post she held until 1957. Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. The couple did not have any children together.

Arrest

On December 1, 1955, Parks was taken into custody after she disobeyed the orders of a bus driver to give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. She subsequently recalled that the reason she had initially declined was not that she was physically exhausted, but rather because she was exhausted from always giving in.

Parks hopped on the Cleveland Avenue bus to head back to her house in Montgomery after putting in a hard day’s work as a seamstress at a department shop in Montgomery. She proceeded to the first of several reserved seats for “colored” guests and took a seat there.

The Montgomery City Code mandated that all forms of public transportation be separated into separate lanes, and it gave bus drivers the “powers of a police officer of the city while in actual charge of any bus for the purposes of carrying out the provisions” of the code. This was done to ensure that the code was followed. When driving a bus, drivers were obligated to assign seats in a way that ensured white passengers were segregated from black passengers while still providing them with equal facilities.

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This was accomplished by placing a line in the middle of the bus, separating the African American passengers sitting in the back of the bus from the white passengers sitting in the front. When an African American passenger boarded the bus, they were required to pay their fare at the front entrance, after which they were required to exit the vehicle and re-enter it through the rear door.

As the bus that Parks was travelling continued, it started to get more crowded with people of the white race. After some time, there were enough people on board to fill the bus, at which point the driver observed that numerous white passengers were standing in the aisle. The bus driver came to a complete stop, pulled the sign separating the two portions of the vehicle back one row, and then asked four black passengers to give up their seats.

The city’s bus ordinance did not officially allow drivers to demand that passengers of any hue give up their seat to anyone else. This authority was implicitly granted to drivers. On the other hand, bus drivers in Montgomery had gotten into the habit of relocating the sign that separated black and white passengers to the back of the bus and, if necessary, requesting black passengers to give up their seats so that white passengers might sit there. The bus driver could refuse service to the Black passenger and could have called the police to have them removed from the bus if the passenger complained.

Parks declined to get up and comply with the driver’s request, even though three of the other black passengers on the bus did so. Parks responded, “I don’t think I should have to stand up,” when the driver ordered that she get up. “Why don’t you stand up?” the driver asked. The motorist dialled 911, and the officer promptly took her into custody.

Parks was taken into custody by the police at the site, where she was subsequently charged with violating Chapter 6, Section 11 of the Montgomery City Code. She was transported to the headquarters of the police department, and later that night, she was granted bail and allowed to leave.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

To voice their disapproval of Parks’s arrest, African American community members were urged to abstain from riding municipal buses on her trial, which took place on Monday, December 5, 1955. People were strongly encouraged to either remain home from work or school, take a taxi, or walk to their places of employment at this time. Despite the fact that the vast majority of the African American community did not ride the bus, the organizers anticipated that a lengthier boycott would be effective. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, as it came to be called, was an enormous success. It lasted for 381 days, culminating with a judgement from the Supreme Court that declared segregation on public transit systems unconstitutional.

On the evening of December 1, the day that Parks was arrested, Nixon initiated the planning stages of a campaign to organize a boycott of the city buses in Montgomery. Publications in the area were solicited to run advertisements, and leaflets were published, printed, and disseminated across black communities.

At a meeting held on the morning of December 5 at the Mt. Zion Church in Montgomery, Alabama, a group of influential African American community members discussed possible strategies, and they concluded that their effort to boycott needed a new organization as well as strong leadership. They elected King, a newcomer to Montgomery, to serve as minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and founded an organization called the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). The MIA believed that the case of Parks was an outstanding chance to take additional action to bring about genuine change.

Upon arriving at the courthouse for her trial that morning with her attorney, Fred Gray, Parks was greeted by a buzzing crowd of approximately 500 local supporters who cheered for her as she went through the proceedings. Parks was found guilty of breaching a local code after a hearing that lasted for 30 minutes, and as a result, he was given a fine of $10 in addition to a court cost of $4.

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The outcome of Parks’ trial, on the other hand, was unquestionably the most significant development of the day. The majority of seats on the city buses were unoccupied. Most of the approximately 40,000 African Americans who were commuting to work in the city at the time chose to walk to their jobs that day, with some walking as far as 20 miles. Some commuted in carpools, while others took taxis owned and operated by African Americans.

The movement to boycott persisted for some months due to its scale, complexity, and participants’ dedication to the cause. The city of Montgomery had become an eyesore when scores of public buses were left idling for an extended time, ultimately leading to major financial difficulties for the city’s transportation corporation. However, as the boycott gained momentum, it met with increasing levels of opposition.

Some of the segregationists responded with violence to the challenge. Bombs were dropped on the residences of Martin Luther King Jr. and E.D. Nixon and on black churches, which were set on fire. Despite this, additional initiatives were taken to break the boycott. African Americans were excluded from coverage under an insurance policy that applied to the city taxi system. Antiquated legislation that forbids boycotts led to the incarceration of black persons who violated the legislation.

African Americans sought legal action as a response to the events that followed as a result of the subsequent events. A Black legal team took the issue of segregation on public transit systems to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Northern (Montgomery) Division. They did so armed with the decision from Brown v. Board of Education, which stated that separate but equal policies had no place in public education. In that case, the court stated that separate but equal policies had no place in public education. The legal action was initiated by Parks’ attorney, Fred Gray.

In June of 1956, a district court ruled that laws mandating racial segregation sometimes called “Jim Crow laws,” violated the Constitution and hence were invalid. Shortly after that, the city of Montgomery filed an appeal against the court’s verdict. On November 13, 1956, the United States Supreme Court maintained the lower court’s ruling and declared segregation on public transport to violate the Constitution.

The city of Montgomery was left with no choice but to end its enforcement of segregation on public buses on December 20, 1956, when the transit company, downtown businesses, and the legal system were all ruled against them. As a result, the city was forced to lift its enforcement of segregation, and the boycott ended. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was one of the largest and most successful mass actions in the fight against racial segregation. It achieved this status due to the combination of legal action and the unwavering commitment of the African American community.

Life After the Bus Boycott

Even though she had become an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, Parks endured a difficult time following her imprisonment in Montgomery and the boycott. She was let go from her position at the department store, and her husband was sacked after his employer forbade him to discuss his wife or the court action they were involved in.

They were unsuccessful in finding job in Montgomery, so they ultimately decided to go to Detroit, Michigan, along with Parks’ mother. There, Parks began a new chapter in her life by landing a job as a secretary and receptionist in the office of United States Representative John Conyer. Additionally, she was on the board of directors for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

1987 saw the establishment of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, which Parks co-founded with her lifelong companion Elaine Eason Steele. The organization takes young people across the country on “Pathways to Freedom” bus tours, where they are shown significant civil rights and Underground Railroad locations.

Autobiography and Memoir

Rosa Parks wrote her autobiography, {Rosa Parks: My Story, in 1992. In it, she recounts her life growing up in the segregated South. Her memoirs were included in the book Quiet Strength, which she released in 1995. The book concentrates on the part that her religious faith played in her life at all stages.

Outkast Song

Outkast, a hip-hop group, released their song “Rosa Parks” in 1998, and the following year, it rocketed into the top 100 on the Billboard music charts. The following was included in the song’s chorus:

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“Oh, stop making such a racket. It is imperative that everyone relocates to the rear of the bus.”

Because Outkast exploited Parks’ name without obtaining her consent, Parks initiated legal action against the band and the record company in 1999, claiming that the band had committed defamation and engaged in false advertising. According to Outkast, the song is shielded from legal action by the First Amendment and does not infringe upon Parks’ publicity rights.

A judge threw down the defamation accusations in the year 2003. As soon as possible, Parks’ attorney resubmitted the case based on the false advertising charges for exploiting her name without authorization and asking for more than $5 billion.

The dispute was finally resolved on April 14, 2005. According to a statement that was issued at the time, Outkast and their co-defendants SONY BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records LLC, and LaFace Records did not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute to develop educational programs that “enlighten today’s youth about the significant role Rosa Parks played in making America a better place for all races.”

Death

At 92, Parks passed away peacefully in the apartment she called home in Detroit, Michigan on October 24, 2005. In the previous year, she had been given a diagnosis with advancing dementia, a condition from which she had been suffering at least since year 2002.

The passing of Rosa Parks was commemorated by some memorial events, one of which consisted of her casket being displayed in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Rotunda, when an estimated 50,000 people paid their respects. She was laid to rest in the chapel’s mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan, between the mausoleums of her husband and mother. The chapel’s name was changed to the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel shortly after she passed away.

Accomplishments and Awards

Parks was honoured with some distinguished awards and medals during her lifetime, including the NAACP’s highest honour, the Spingarn Medal, and the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Award.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest distinction that may be bestowed by the executive department of the United States government. On September 15, 1996, President Bill Clinton presented it to Rosa Parks. The year after that, she was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honour that can be bestowed by the legislative branch of the United States government.

Parks was included in the list of “The 20 Most Influential People of the 20th Century” that was compiled by TIME magazine in 1999.

Remembering Rosa Parks

Museum and Park

The Rosa Parks Museum was established in 2000 by Troy University and is located in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, where she was arrested. Maya Lin is the most well-known artist and architect for creating the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 2001, Grand Rapids, Michigan, dedicated Rosa Parks Circle, a park that encompasses 3.5 acres and was created by Lin.

Movie on Rosa Parks’ Life

The Rosa Parks Story is a biographical film released in 2002 and stars Angela Bassett. Julie Dash served as the film’s director. The film was honoured with the Christopher Award, the Black Reel Award, and the NAACP Image Award in 2003.

Commemorative Stamp

On February 4, 2013, the date that Parks would have been 100 years old was commemorated. In honour of the occasion, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp with the name “Rosa Parks Forever” and an image of the well-known civil rights pioneer.

Statue

In the same month of February 2013, President Barack Obama presided over the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks in the United States Capitol building. The statue was conceived by Robert Firmin and sculpted by Eugene Daub. According to The New York Times, he commemorated Parks by saying, “In a single instant, with the simplest of gestures, she helped transform America and alter the world…. And now, she takes her rightful position among those who shaped the course of our nation.”

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