Rosa Parks

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Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks in 1955.
February 4, 1913
Tuskegee, Alabama, USA
October 24, 2005
Detroit, Michigan, USA

Rosa "Lee" Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913October 24, 2005) was an African American civil rights activist and seamstress whom the United States Congress called the "Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement." She is most famous for her refusal in 1955 to give up a bus seat to a white man when ordered to do so by the bus driver, provoking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her role in American history earned her an iconic status in American culture, and her actions have left an enduring legacy for worldwide civil rights movements.

Early years

Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, the daughter of James and Leona McCauley, a carpenter and a teacher. Small even as a child, she suffered poor health and had chronic tonsillitis. When her parents separated, she moved with her mother to Pine Level, Alabama, just outside Montgomery. There she grew up on a farm with her maternal grandparents, mother, and younger brother Sylvester, and began her lifelong membership in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her mother Leona homeschooled Rosa until she was 11, when she enrolled in the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery, where her aunt lived, taking academic and some vocational courses. She then went on to a laboratory school set up by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes for secondary education (now known as Alabama State University), but was forced to drop out to care for her grandmother, and later her mother, after they grew ill.

Under Jim Crow laws, it was quite easy to separate blacks and whites in every aspect of daily life in the South, except for public transportation. Bus and train companies could not afford separate vehicles for different races, and so blacks and whites had to occupy the same space. Bus transportation was one of the most volatile areas for race relations in the South. Parks recalled going to elementary school in Pine Level, where school buses took white students to their new school and black students had to walk to their school. "I'd see the bus pass every day.... But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world."

Though Parks' autobiography recounts that some of her earliest memories are of the kindness of white strangers, racial segregation could not be ignored. When the Ku Klux Klan marched in the street in front of her house, Parks recalls her grandfather guarding the front door with a shotgun. The Montgomery Industrial School, founded and staffed by Northern whites for black children, was twice burned by arsonists, and its faculty was ostracized by the white community. Her younger brother, Sylvester, would later return from World War II as a decorated veteran to a South where blacks in uniform were regarded as "uppity" and sometimes beaten.

In 1932, she married Raymond Parks, a barber from Montgomery, at her mother's house. Raymond was a member of the NAACP, at the time collecting money to support the Scottsboro Boys, a group of blacks falsely accused of raping two white women. After marrying, Rosa took a number of jobs, ranging from domestic worker to hospital aide. At her husband's urging, she finished her high school studies in 1933, at a time when less than seven percent of African Americans had a high school diploma. Despite the Jim Crow laws that made political participation by blacks difficult, she persevered in registering to vote, succeeding on her third try.

In December 1943, Parks became active in the American Civil Rights Movement, joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and was elected volunteer secretary to its president, Edgar Nixon. Of her position, she later said, "I was the only woman there, and they needed a secretary, and I was too timid to say no." She would continue as secretary until 1957. In the 1940s, Mr. and Mrs. Parks were also members of the Voters' League. Some time soon after 1944, she held a brief job on the Maxwell Air Force Base, a federally-owned area where segregation was not allowed, and rode on an integrated trolley. Speaking to her biographer, Parks noted, "You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up." Parks also worked as a housekeeper and seamstress for a white couple, Clifford and Virginia Durr. The politically liberal Durrs became her friends, and encouraged Parks to attend, and eventually helped sponsor her in, the Highlander Folk School, an education center for workers' rights and racial equality in Monteagle, Tennessee in the summer of 1955.

Civil rights activism

Events leading up to boycott

One of the reasons for the desegregation experienced by Parks on Maxwell AFB was that she was not the first African American to refuse to give up her seat to a white person. In 1944 Jackie Robinson took a similar stand with an Army officer in Fort Hood, Texas, refusing to move to the back of a bus. He was brought before a court-martial, which acquitted him. [1]

The NAACP had accepted and litigated other cases before, such as that of Irene Morgan ten years earlier, which resulted in a victory in the Supreme Court on Commerce Clause grounds. That victory only overturned state segregation laws as applied to actual travel in interstate commerce, such as interstate bus travel. Black leaders had begun to build a case around the arrest of a 15-year-old girl, Claudette Colvin, who had refused to relinquish her bus seat. Colvin was a student at Booker T. Washington High School. On March 2, 1955, she boarded a public bus. Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from the bus when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. She screamed that her constitutional rights were being violated. At the time, Colvin was active in the NAACP's Youth Council, and she was advised by none other than Rosa Parks.

Colvin said, "Mrs. Parks said, 'Always do what was right'." Parks was raising money for Colvin's defense, but when E.D. Nixon learned that Colvin was pregnant, it was decided that Colvin was an unsuitable symbol for their cause. She was impregnated by a much older man soon after her arrest, which scandalized the deeply religious black community. They felt that the white press would manipulate Colvin's "illegitimate" pregnancy as a means of undermining any boycott. Some historians have argued that civil-rights leaders, who were predominately middle class, were uneasy with Colvin's impoverished background. The NAACP had considered, but rejected, some earlier protesters deemed unable or unsuitable to withstand the pressures cross-examination of a legal challenge to racial segregation laws. Colvin was also prone to outbursts and cursing episodes. Many of the legal charges against Colvin were dropped. A boycott and legal case never materialized from the Colvin case law. [2]

File:Rosaparks busdiagram.jpg
Seat layout on the bus where Parks sat, December 1, 1955.

In Montgomery, Alabama, the first four rows of buses were reserved for white people. Buses had "colored" sections for black people—who made up more than 75% of the bus system's riders—generally in the rear of the bus; these sections were not fixed in size, but determined by the placement of a movable sign. Black people could also sit in the middle rows, until those seats were needed by white people when the white section was full. Then they had to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black people were not even allowed to sit across the aisle from whites. The driver could also move the "colored" section sign, or remove it altogether. Additionally, even getting on the bus presented hurdles. If white people were already sitting in the front, black people could board to pay the fare, but then they had to disembark and re-enter through the rear door. There were times when the bus would depart before the black customers who had paid made it to the back entrance.

For years the black community had complained about the severe unfairness of the situation, and Parks was no exception. "My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest.... I did a lot of walking in Montgomery." Parks had her first run-in on the public bus in on a rainy day in 1943, when the bus driver, James Blake, demanded that she get off the bus and reenter through the back door like every other black person. As she began to exit by the front door, she dropped her purse. Parks sat down for a moment in a seat for white passengers, apparently to pick up her purse. The bus driver was enraged and had barely let her step off the bus before speeding off. Rosa walked more than five miles home in the rain.

Bus protest and arrest

File:Rosaparks fingerprints.jpg
Fingerprint card of Rosa Parks.

After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955 in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare, and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for black people in the "colored" section, which was near the middle of the bus, and directly behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Initially, she had not noticed that the bus driver was the same man, James Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled through its regular route, all of the "white-only" seats in the bus were filled. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded the bus. Following the standard practice of bus segregation, Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three men standing, and thus moved the sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Years later, in recalling the events of the day, Parks said, "When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night."

By Parks' account, Blake said, "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats." [3] Three of them complied. Parks said, "The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn't move at the beginning, but he says, 'Let me have these seats.' And the other three people moved, but I didn't." [4] The black man sitting next to her gave his seat up. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the newly-repositioned "colored" section. [5] Blake then said, "Why don't you stand up?" Parks responded, "I said I don't think I should have to stand up." Blake called the police to arrest Parks. When recalling the incident for Eyes on the Prize, a 1987 public television series on the civil rights movement, Parks said, " When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.'"

During a radio interview with Sydney Rogers in 1956 in West Oakland several months after her arrest in 1955, when asked why she had decided not to vacate her bus seat, Parks said, "I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen of Montgomery, Alabama." Parks also detailed her motivation in her autobiography, My Story:

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."
File:Rosaparks policereport.jpg
Police report on Rosa Parks, December 1, 1955, page 1.

When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, " Why do you push us around?" The officer's response, as she remembered it, was, "I don't know, but the law's the law, and you're under arrest." She later said, "I only knew that, as I was being arrested, that it was the very last time that I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind."

Parks was charged with a violation of Chapter 6, Section 11 segregation law of the Montgomery City code, even though she had not taken up a "white-only" seat—she was in a "colored section", but had been told to get up to allow a white man to sit. E.D. Nixon and Clifford Durr bailed Parks out of jail on the evening of December 1. Nixon then persuaded her to allow her case to be used to challenge the city's bus segregation policy. That evening, Nixon conferred with Alabama State College professor Jo Ann Robinson. They had also consulted attorney Fred Gray. Together, they agreed that a long-term legal challenge of bus segregation should be underscored by a one-day boycott of the bus system. Nixon and Robinson went about setting the boycott into motion that evening. Nixon spent the late evening talking and drawing up a list of prominent black leaders from Montgomery for support.

Four days later, Parks was tried on charges of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. The trial lasted 30 minutes. Parks was found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs. [6] Parks appealed her conviction and formally challenged the legality of racial segregation. In a 1992 interview with NPR's Lynn Neary, Parks recalled:

"I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn't hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became."
File:Rosaparks policereport2.jpg
Police report on Rosa Parks, December 1, 1955, page 2.

On Monday, December 5, 1955, a group of 16 to 18 people gathered at the Mt. Zion AME Zion Church to discuss boycott strategies. This group agreed that a new organization was needed to lead the boycott effort if it were to continue. Rev. Ralph Abernathy suggested the name "Montgomery Improvement Association" (MIA). The name was adopted, and the MIA was formed. Its members elected as their president a virtual newcomer to Montgomery, a young and relatively unknown minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

That Monday night, 50 leaders of the African American community, headed by King, gathered to discuss the proper actions to be taken in response to Parks' arrest. E.D. Nixon said, "My God, look what segregation has put in my hands!" Parks was the ideal plaintiff for a test case against city and state segregation laws. While the 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, unwed and pregnant, had been deemed unacceptable to be the center of a civil rights mobilization, King stated that, "Mrs. Parks, on the other hand, was regarded as one of the finest citizens of Montgomery—not one of the finest Negro citizens, but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery." Parks was securely married and employed, possessed a quiet demeanor, and was politically savvy. The selection of Parks for a test case supported by the NAACP may have also been in part because she was employed by the NAACP.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey fingerprints Parks on February 22, 1956 during the bus boycott arrests.

What ensued next after Parks' arrest was the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On Sunday, December 4, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott announcement was made from black churches, and a front-page article in The Montgomery Advertiser, further spread the word. At a church rally that night, blacks unanimously agreed to continue the boycott until they were treated with courtesy, that black drivers be hired, and that seating in the middle of the bus be done on a first-come basis. On Monday, December 5, 1955, (the day of Parks' trial), the Women's Political Council distributed 35,000 leaflets that urged blacks to boycott Montgomery public buses. The handbill read, "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, don't ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off the buses Monday." [7] It rained on Monday, December 5, but the black community persevered in their boycott. Some blacks rode in carpools. Others traveled in black cabs that charged the same fare as the bus fare, 10 cents. Most of the rest of the 40,000 black commuters walked, some for as far as 20 miles. The black community ended up boycotting public buses for 381 days. Dozens of public buses stood idle for months until the law requiring segregation on public buses was lifted. The boycott severely damaged the bus transit company's finances. This event helped spark many other protests against segregation. As a retaliation against the black community's bus boycott, many black churches were dynamited. Dr. King's home was bombed on in the early morning hours of January 30, 1956. E.D. Nixon's home was also attacked. This mass movement marked one of the largest and most successful challenges of racial segregation and it catapulted Dr. King to the forefront of the civil rights movement.

The Montgomery Sheriff's Department booking photo of Mrs. Parks, taken when she was booked on February 22, 1956.

Through her role in initiating this boycott, Rosa Parks helped make other Americans aware of the civil rights struggle. Dr. King wrote in his 1958 book, Stride Toward Freedom, Parks' arrest was the precipitating factor rather than the cause of the protest. "The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices...Actually no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.' "

Browder v. Gayle

Immediately after the start of the bus boycott, black leaders began discourse on the need for a federal lawsuit to challenge city and state bus segregation laws. About two months after the bus boycott began, Claudette Colvin's case was re-considered by black legal leaders. Attorneys Fred Gray, E.D. Nixon and Clifford Durr (a white lawyer who, with his wife, Virginia, was an activist in the civil rights movement) searched for the ideal case law to challenge the constitutional legitimacy of city and state bus segregation laws. Parks’s case was not used as the basis for the federal lawsuit because, as a criminal case, it would have to make its way through the state criminal appeals process before a federal appeal could be filed. City and state officials could have delayed a final rendering for years. In addition, attorney Durr believed it was possible that the outcome would merely have been that the conviction of Parks would be vacated with no changes in segregation laws. [8]

Gray researched for the law suit, consulting with NAACP legal counsels Robert Carter and Thurgood Marshall (who would later become U.S. solicitor general and a U.S. Supreme Court justice). Gray approached Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, all women who had been mistreated by the Montgomery bus system the previous year. They all agreed to become plaintiffs in a civil action law suit. On February 1, 1956, case Browder v. Gayle (Browder was a Montgomery housewife; Gayle the mayor of Montgomery) was filed in U.S. District Court by Fred Gray. It was Browder v. Gayle that caused segregation on public buses to be eradicated. [9]

On June 19, 1956, the U.S. District Court three-judge panel ruled that Section 301 (31a, 31b and 31c) of Title 48, Code of Alabama, 1940, as amended, and Sections, 10 and 11 of Chapter 6 of the Code of the City of Montgomery, 1952 "deny and deprive plaintiffs and other Negro citizens similarly situated of the equal protection of the laws and due process of law secured by the Fourteenth Amendment," (Browder v. Gayle, 1956). The court essentially decided that the precedent of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) could be applied to Browder v. Gayle. On November 13, 1956, in Browder v. Gayle, United States Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation on buses, deeming it unconstitutional. The court order arrived in Montgomery, Alabama on December 20, 1956. The bus boycott ended on December 21, 1956. However, more violence erupted following the court order, as snipers fired into buses and into Dr. King's home, and bombs were thrown into churches and into the homes of many church ministers. [10]

Later years

File:Rosaparks bus.jpg
Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus on December 21, 1956 (the day Montgomery's public transportation system was legally integrated)).

After her arrest, Parks became an icon of the civil rights movement and suffered hardship as a result. She lost her job at the department store and her husband quit his job after his boss forbade him from talking about his wife or the legal case. Mrs Parks traveled and spoke extensively. In 1957, Raymond and Rosa Parks left Montgomery for Hampton, Virginia, mostly because Mrs. Parks was unable to find work, but also due to disagreements with Dr. King and other leaders of Montgomery's struggling civil rights movement. In Hampton, she found a job as a hostess in an inn at Hampton Institute. Later that year, at the urging of her younger brother Sylvester, Raymond and Rosa Parks and her mother Leona McCauley moved to Detroit, Michigan. Mrs. Parks worked as a seamstress until 1965 when U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) hired her as a secretary and receptionist for his Congressional office in Detroit. She held this position until she retired in 1988.[11] In a telephone interview with CNN on October 24, 2005, Conyers recalled, "You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene—just a very special person...'there is only one' Rosa Parks."

File:Rosa parks bus.jpg
The No. 2857 (GM Serial Number 1132 and coach ID #2857) bus on which Rosa Parks was riding is now a museum exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.

The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development was co-founded in February 1987 by Mrs Rosa Parks and Ms. Elaine Eason Steele in honor of Rosa's husband Raymond Parks, who died from cancer in 1977. The institute runs "Pathways to Freedom" bus tours introducing young people to important civil rights and underground railroad sites throughout the country. In 1992 she published, Rosa Parks: My Story, an autobiography leading up to her decision not to give up her seat, aimed at younger readers.

On August 30 1994, at age eighty-one, Rosa Parks was attacked in her Detroit home by Joseph Skipper, who is also African American. The incident created outrage throughout America. Skipper said he didn't know he was in Parks' home but recognized her after entering. Skipper asked, "Hey, aren't you Rosa Parks?" to which she replied, "Yes." She handed him $3 when he demanded money and an additional $50 when he demanded more. Before fleeing, Skipper struck Parks in the face.[12] Skipper was arrested and charged with various breaking and entering offenses against Parks and other neighborhood victims. He admitted guilt and on August 8, 1995 was sentenced to eight to fifteen years in prison.[13]

In 1995, Parks published her memoirs Quiet Strength concentrating on the role her faith played in her life.

On a 1997 trip the Pathways to Freedom bus drove into a river killing Adisa Foluke, called Park's adopted grandson, who was a chaperon, and injuring several others.

Parks served as a member of the Board of Advocates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Lawsuits and controversy

In 1999 a lawsuit was filed on her behalf against the popular American hip hop duo OutKast and LaFace Records, claiming that the group had illegally used her name without her permission for their song "Rosa Parks", the most successful radio single of their 1998 album Aquemini.

The song's chorus is as follows: Ah ha, hush that fuss/everybody move to the back of the bus/Do you wanna bump and slump with us/We the type of people make the club get crunk.

OutKast was dismissed from the suit in August 2004. Parks' attorneys and caretaker refiled and named BMG, Arista Records and LaFace Records as the defendants along with Barnes & Noble and Borders Group for selling the songs, and several people not connencted to the song, including the director and producer of the 1998 music video, asking for $5 billion in damages. The lawsuit was settled on April 15, 2005. In the settlement agreement, OutKast and their producers and record labels paid Parks an undisclosed cash settlement, and agreed to work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in creating educational programs on the life of Rosa Parks. The record labels and OutKast admitted to no wrongdoing. It is not known whether Parks's legal fees were paid for from her settlement money or by the record companies[14].

In September 2004, Parks hired attorney Johnnie Cochran to help her appeal the district court's decision. Cochran argued that the song did not have First Amendment protection because although its title carried Parks' name, its lyrics were not about her.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Hackett upheld OutKast's right to use Parks' name in November 2004. Parks took the case to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In October 2004, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh appointed Dennis Archer, a former mayor of Detroit and Michigan Supreme Court justice, as guardian of legal matters for Parks after her family expressed concerns that her caretakers and her lawyers were pursuing the case based on their own financial interest.[15] "My auntie would never, ever go to this length to hurt some young artists trying to make it in the world," Parks' niece, Rhea McCauley, said in an Associated Press interview. "As a family, our fear is that during her last days Auntie Rosa will be surrounded by strangers trying to make money off of her name."[16]

A scene in the 2002 film Barbershop, where characters discuss earlier instances of African-Americans refusing to give up their bus seats, caused activists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to launch a boycott against the film. The scene showed a barber arguing that many other African Americans before Parks had resisted giving up their seats; but because of her status as an NAACP secretary, she received undeserved fame.

Death and funeral

Rosa Parks resided in Detroit until she died at the age of 92 on October 24, 2005, at about 19:00 hours EDT, at her apartment in a nursing home on the east side. She was diagnosed with progressive dementia in 2004.

The United States Senate passed a resolution on October 27 to honor Parks by allowing her body to lie in honor (also known as "lie in state") in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. The House of Representatives approved the resolution on October 28. Since the practice of lying in state in the Rotunda began in 1852, Parks was the 31st person, the first woman, the first American who had not been a U.S. government official, and the second non-government official (after Frenchman Pierre L'Enfant) to lie in state. She was also the second black person, after Jacob Chestnut, one of the two United States Capitol Police officers who were fatally shot on July 24, 1998. Former President Ronald Reagan had previously lain in state in the Capitol in 2004.

Parks’s coffin was taken to the the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in Montgomery, Alabama in a horse-drawn hearse, where she lay in repose at the altar, dressed in the uniform of a church deaconess, on Saturday, October 29. A memorial service was held there the following morning, and in the evening the casket was transported to Washington, D.C. aboard a bus similar to the one in which she made her protest, and placed in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. An estimated 50,000 people viewed the casket there, and it was broadcasted on television on October 31. This was followed by another memorial service at different St. Paul AME church in Washington on the afternoon of Monday, October 31. From Monday to Wednesday morning, she lay in repose at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan. The funeral was held on Wednesday, November 2, at the Greater Grace Temple Church.

The funeral was scheduled to last three hours, but it started an hour late and, because of the many speakers and the length of the speeches, it went on for seven hours (well into the hours of darkness), and was televised in full by few stations outside Detroit.

After the funeral service ended, an honor guard from the Michigan National Guard laid the U.S. flag over the casket and carried it to a horse-drawn hearse which was intended to carry it, in daylight, to the cemetery. However. after the hearse had traveled fewer than two blocks in the dark, the casket was transferred to a motor hearse in the interest of time and safety. One reporter commented that the lights outside the nighttime motorcade made it look as if it were glowing. As the hearse passed the thousands of people who had turned out to view the procession, many clapped and released white balloons.

Rosa was interred between her husband and mother at Detroit's Woodlawn Cemetery in the chapel's mausoleum. (The chapel was renamed the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel just after her death.) [17] City officials in Montgomery and Detroit announced on October 27 that the front seats of their city buses would be reserved with black ribbons in honor of Parks until her funeral. Parks had previously prepared and placed a headstone on the selected location with the inscription "Rosa L. Parks, wife, 1913— ".

Awards and honors

File:Rosa Parks medal.gif
The Rosa Parks Congressional Gold Medal, bears the legend "Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement."
File:Rosa Louise McCauley Parks in 1979.jpg
Rosa Parks with NAACP's highest award, the Springarn Medal, in 1979.

In 1979, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded Parks the Spingarn Medal, its highest honor, and she received the Martin Luther King Sr. Award the next year. She was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame in 1983 for her achievements in civil rights. However, given the pivotal role she had played in the nation's history, she had received few national accolades until very late in life. In 1990, she was called at the last moment to be part of the group welcoming Nelson Mandela, who had just been released from his imprisonment in South Africa. Upon spotting her in the reception line, Mandela called out her name and, hugging her, said, "You sustained me while I was in prison all those years."[18]

Parks received the Rosa Parks Peace Prize in 1994 in Stockholm, Sweden, followed by the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the U.S. executive branch, in 1996. President Bill Clinton presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rosa Parks on September 9, 1996. In 1998, she became the first recipient of the International Freedom Conductor Award given by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The next year Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given by the U.S. legislative branch. In 1999, she also received the Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Freedom Award. Also in 1999, she was a guest of President Bill Clinton during his 1999 State of the Union Address and Time magazine named Parks one of the twenty most influential and iconic figures of the twentieth century. [19] In 2000, her home state awarded her the Alabama Academy of Honor as well as the first Governor's Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage. She was also awarded two dozen honorary doctorates from universities worldwide and was made an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

The Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, was dedicated to her in November 2001. It is located on the corner where Parks boarded the famed bus. The most popular item in the museum is a sculpture of Parks sitting on a bus bench. The documentary "Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks" received a 2002 nomination for Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That year she also collaborated in a TV movie of her life starring Angela Bassett.

On October 27 and October 28, the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, voted to have Rosa Parks lie in state.

On October 30 the President issued a Proclamation ordering that all flags on US public areas be flown at half staff. The proclamation stated, "As a mark of respect for the memory of Rosa Parks, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that on the day of her interment, the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on such day. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations."

Metro Transit in King County, Washington placed stickers dedicating the front seat of all its buses in Rosa's memory.

Notable quotes and citations about Rosa Parks

Presidential Medal of Freedom Award Ceremony

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Rosa Parks joins President Bill Clinton during a Congressional Black Caucus dinner in Washington in 1996. Rosa Parks was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom at this event.

Excerpt of speech from President Bill Clinton, (September 9, 1996):

"When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus 40 years ago, she ignited the single most significant social movement in American history. When she sat down on the bus, she stood up for the American ideals of equality and justice and demanded that the rest of us do the same. When our descendants look back in time to trace the fight for freedom, Rosa Parks will stand among our nation's greatest patriots, the legendary figures whose courage sustained us and pushed us forward. She is, and continues to be, a national treasure." [20]

Award citation: "On December 1, 1955, going home from work, Rosa Parks boarded a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and with one modest act of defiance, changed the course of history. By refusing to give up her seat, she sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and helped launch the civil rights movement. In the years since, she has remained committed to the cause of freedom, speaking out against injustice here and abroad. Called the First Lady of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks has demonstrated, in the words of Robert Kennedy, that each time a person strikes out against injustice, she sends forth the tiny ripple of hope, which, crossing millions of others, can sweep down the walls of oppression." [21]



  • "The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott" by Ken Hare, Montgomery Advertiser, October 2005, retrieved November 5, 2005
  • "Browder v. Gayle: The Women Before Rosa Parks" by Tim Walker,, retrieved October 27, 2005
  • "Heroes and Icons: Rosa Parks" by Rita Dove,, June 14, 1999, retrieved October 29, 2005
  • "Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92" by, October 25, 2005, retrieved October 27, 2005
  • "Is Barbershop Right About Rosa Parks?" by Brendan I. Koerner, Slate, September 27, 2005, retrieved October 27, 2005
  • "Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement, Dies" by E.R. Shipp, The New York Times, October 25, 2005, retrieved October 27, 2005
  • Editorial. 1974. "Two decades later." New York Times (May 17): 38. ("Within a year of Brown, Rosa Parks, a tired seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, was, like Homer Plessy sixty years earlier, arrested for her refusal to move to the back of the bus."

See also

External links

Multimedia and interviews



ar:روزا باركس ca:Rosa Parks cs:Rosa Parksová da:Rosa Parks de:Rosa Parks eo:Rosa PARKS es:Rosa Parks fi:Rosa Parks fr:Rosa Parks ga:Rosa Parks he:רוזה פארקס it:Rosa Parks ja:ローザ・パークス lb:Rosa Parks li:Rosa Parks mk:Роза Паркс nds:Rosa Parks nl:Rosa Parks no:Rosa Parks pl:Rosa Parks pt:Rosa Parks ru:Паркс, Роза Ли sl:Rosa Parks sv:Rosa Parks zh:羅薩·帕克斯