Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

            Rosa McCauley was born in February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee Alabama to Rosa Louise and James McCauley. Her father left to find work and she had to move in with her grandparents while at the age of two years. In the advent of her childhood, segregation laws were dominant in that part of the country where the colored people and white people could not interact in buses, movie theaters and other public areas. In addition, the empowerment of the colored people was hindered through the poor educational facilities characterized by crowdedness and lack of equipment. On her part, she had to drop from school while in 11th grade to take care of her mother and grandmother who were sick. The segregation in the South was intensive to the extent of the African American school year being shorter to give time for the children to work in the fields during the harvest season. As a student, she was enrolled at the Montgomery Industrial schools for girls where she had to clean two classrooms daily to cater for tuition[1].

At the age of nineteen, she married Raymond Parks who was instrumental in instilling the activist attitudes in her. In addition, he encouraged her to finish her high school studies at the age of 20. Her husband was an instrumental civil right activist whereby he collected money to support African American men accused of raping white women. He encouraged her to vote and she registered as a voter in 1933. When she was thirty, she became an active civil rights movement member and held the position of volunteer secretary until she became its president. She held the position until 1957. The turnaround was in 1944 when she landed a job as a server and housekeeper in the Maxwell Air Force Base. Here the segregation rules where barred and the couple she was working for was very liberal to the extent of sponsoring her to the Highlander Folk School. It is in Highlander that she learnt about workers’ rights and racial equality[2].

Her most famous act was on 1 December 1955, where at the age of 42, she defied a directive from a bus driver to stand up for a white man. The driver, known as James F. Blake, had a previous encounter with Rosa where twelve years earlier, he had left her in the rain in favor of a white passenger. On subsequent commands, she remained adamant and the driver called the police to arrest her. She later asserted the motivation behind the act was knowledge, as she questioned the rights accorded to her as a human being and citizen of America. She was charged with violating Section 6 of Chapter 11 of the Montgomery law that had been enacted 55 years earlier to guide on segregation.

A famous activist and her employer at Maxwell Air Force Base paid her bail the following evening. Later on that night, the leader of the Women’s Political Council sent a message announcing the famous Montgomery bus boycott in reference to Rosa Park’s case. This bus boycott induced violent retaliation from segregationists who burned black churches and even bombed the house of Martin Luther King Jr. Her trial took place on December 5 and lasted 30 minutes where she was found guilty of violation of local ordinance and fined 14 dollars. She appealed her sentence and the legality of racial segregation. Meanwhile, the boycotts lasted for months becoming one of the most successful mass acts against racial segregation in history.

Rosa Park made the important contribution to civil right movement in America where her act of defiance and courage precipitated resistance against racial segregation. The events that followed the 1955 act propelled the likes of E Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr. to national recognition as civil right activists due to their role in organizing the Montgomery bus boycott. Her civil right advocacy continued until she retired after being the receptionist and secretary of the African American representative John Conyers in 1988.



Steele, Philip. 1 December 1955: Rosa Parks and her protest for civil rights. Slough, Cherrytree, 2007.

[1] Philip Steele. 1 December 1955: Rosa Parks and her protest for civil rights. (Slough, Cherrytree, 2007).

[2] Philip Steele. 1 December 1955: Rosa Parks and her protest for civil rights. (Slough, Cherrytree, 2007.)

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