Yoon Joung Lee
African-American civil rights activist, Rosa Parks, was born Rosa Louise McCauley in 1913 to Leona and James . Her mother was a teacher and her father was a carpenter. When she was two, Rosa moved to her grandparent’s farm with her mother and brother, just after her parents separated. Before she attended a private school, the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, her mother homeschooled her until she was eleven. During her childhood, Rosa lived in fear by the insults and prejudices against African Americans. At the private school, her views to look at the society were shaped.
While Rosa was attending, the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes, her grandmother became ill. Rosa dropped out of the school to take care of her grandmother. In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber and a member of the NAACP (National Association for Advancement of Colored People). They both were active in the organization,with Rosa serving as its Secretary until 1956.
In 1995, Rosa worked as a seamstress. After a long and tiring day at work, she rode a bus to go home. At that time, however, Black people couldn’t sit just anywhere they wanted in the bus. Their seats were in the back of the bus. She sat in the middle of the bus, right behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. The bus was soon filled, and the bus driver asked all blacks sitting right behind the white section to move and give up their seats for a white man, who had just got on the bus. However, Rosa refused to give up her seat.
She was arrested and convicted of violating “Jim Crow Laws,” the law of segregation. Local civil rights activists who heard this news gathered and initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. Led by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the boycott lasted more than a year, 381 days. Their impact was a serious economic threat since 75% of the bus riders in Montgomery were African Americans. They carpooled, rode in cabs and walked to work instead. It finally ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the bus segregation to be unconstitutional. The next month, bus companies removed the signs on bus seats designating white and colored sections.
In 1957, Rosa lost her job and it was impossible for her to get another one in Montgomery. Her husband and she moved to Detroit Michigan, where Rosa, served as staff employee for U.S. Representative John Conyers. Rosa was awarded many honors for her courageous act including the Rosa Parks Peace Prize in 1994, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. She died in 2005 at the age of 92.
Rosa Parks became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength. Now people of all color are able to sit wherever they want on buses due to the courage of this small woman.