She sat down to stand up for civil rights. Almost a century ago, while Rosa Parks was a kid in Alabama, life was very unequal. Black and white people were not treated the same despite the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution saying they must be treated equally. Rather, the government came up with the sneaky separate-but-equal rule that allowed people to still be segregated by race and skin color in places like bathrooms, shops, restaurants, and drinking fountains.
Rosa Parks was born February 4th, 1913. Her mom worked as a teacher and her dad a carpenter. After her parents separated, she moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and lived on her grandparent’s farm. She walked to school every day because white kids were the only kids allowed to use the bus. When her grandmother became sick, Rosa stayed home to care for her. This meant she had to quit school.
At 19 Rosa met Raymond Parks, a barber and political activist in the fight for civil rights. They fell in love and got married not long after. He encouraged her to go back to school. At that time, less than 7% of the black community graduated high school. This gave Rosa an advantage when looking for work. She worked at doing laundry, mopping hospital floors, and in domestic services like sewing and repairing clothes. Her husband Raymond helped Rosa get work at the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was a secretary at the office in Montgomery Alabama where she investigated cases of racial injustice.
Rosa Parks became famous for what she did or didn’t do on December 1st, 1955. At the time the buses in Montgomery were separated into a space for white people and a space in the back for black people. If more white people needed seats then black passengers had to move further back or stand. If there was no room to stand, then they were kicked off the bus. Well, Rosa was worn out, physically tired, and tired of all the inequality she saw around her after work one day. She took her seat towards the back of the bus, but as the bus filled up two or three white passengers were left standing. The bus driver asked Rosa to give up her seat and move to the back, but she politely refused. “I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter’s night,” she later said. The driver called the police and she was put in jail.
On Monday, December 5th, 1955, Rosa was found guilty of disorderly conduct. The black community of Montgomery organized and acted peacefully by protesting. They handed out pamphlets that said, “we are asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab or walk but please children and grown-ups do not ride the bus at all on Monday.”
That Monday, no one used the buses, everyone stuck to the boycott. people shared cars, cabs charged only ten cents for a ride, and many of the 40,000 people walked. For 381 days they didn’t take the bus. For more than a year they boycotted the bus.
A year later, the Supreme Court agreed that segregation on public transport is illegal. Rosa Parks devoted the rest of her life to the fight for equal rights. Rosa wasn’t the first to refuse to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, don’t forget brave women like Lily Mae Bradford, Irene Morgan, Claudette Colvin, and other activists before her who did the same. Rosa Parks died in Detroit Michigan in 2005 at the age of 92. Today Rosa’s defiance remains a symbol of courage, integrity, dignity, and true determination. She lives on forever as the mother of the freedom movement.
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