CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST (1913-)
There is about her name no discernible
ring nor aura of distinction. There is about her dress and manner no singular,
commanding, or memorable uniqueness. Her story, however is one of the most
inspirational to come out of the civil rights movement, a simple message to all that human
dignity cannot interminably be undermined by brute force. On the evening of December
1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, took a seat with the
other passengers, and prepared to relax for 15 minutes or so before arriving home.
As the bus began to fill up, however, the number of seats dwindled until, within a
few minutes, there were none left. As soon as the white bus driver noticed that a
Black woman was occupying a seat in the "white" section of the bus while a White
passenger was standing, he ordered the "offender" to the rear.
The "offender" did not make a
scene when she refused. She did not scream; she did not whine; she did not threaten;
she did not exhort. She simply did not move, thus forcing those who would force her
to move to make the next move. Rosa Parks was arrested, jailed and brought to trial
while the rest of the once quiescent Black community refused to ride public
buses. Mrs. Parks was the catalyst in the Montgomery boycott, the first
confrontation which brought the name of Martin Luther King, Jr., into the ears of
America. Mrs. Parks paid dearly for courage. Her husband, a barber, became ill
from the pressure, the family ultimately moved to Detroit, where Parks resumed his
Mrs. Parks did sewing and alterations at
home until she found a job as a dressmaker. In Detroit, she became active in youth
work, job guidance, cultural and recreational planning. Dr. King, once called her
"the great fuse that led to the modern stride toward freedom." She made
the stride while sitting still. Mrs. Parks was a receptionist-secretary to
Representative John Conyers. A religious person, she serves as deaconess of St.
Matthews A.M.E. church in Detroit. She has accepted many speaking engagements
because she wants to help young people grow, develop, and reach their potential.
Revised: July 18, 2013.