Monday, March 29, 2010

March is Women's History Month

Rosa Parks

Photo taken of Rosa Parks in 1955
 with Martine Luther King Jr.
 in the background.

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks
(February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005)
 was an African American civil rights activist
whom the U.S. Congress later called the
 "Mother of the Modern-Day
Civil Rights Movement."

On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama,
Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver
James Blake's order that she give up her
seat to make room for a white passenger.

Parks' act of defiance became an
important symbol of the modern
 Civil Rights Movement and Parks
became an international icon of resistance
 to racial segregation. She organized and
collaborated with civil rights leaders, including
boycott leader Martin Luther King, Jr.,
 helping to launch him to national
 prominence in the civil rights movement.


In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber
from Montgomery, at her mother's house.
 Raymond was a member of the NAACP.  After
her marriage, Rosa took numerous 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 7% of
African Americans had a high school diploma.
 Despite the Jim Crow laws that made political
 participation by black people difficult, she
succeeded in registering to vote on her third try.

In December 1943,
Parks became active in the 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 continued as secretary until 1957.
 In the 1940s, Parks and her husband were
members of the Voters' League.
Sometime soon after 1944, she held a
brief job at Maxwell Air Force Base,
a federally owned area where racial
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 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—
at the Highlander Folk School,
an education center for workers' rights and
racial equality in Monteagle, Tennessee,
 in the summer of 1955.


Photo of the bus where Rosa Parks
would not give up her seat!

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 blacks
 in the "colored" section, which was
 near the middle of the bus
and directly behind the ten seats
 reserved for white passengers.

Initially, she had not noticed that
the bus driver was the same man,
 James F. Blake, who had left her in
the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled
 along its regular route, all of the
white-only seats in the bus filled up. The
bus reached the third stop in front
of the Empire Theater, and several
white passengers boarded.

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."

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."

During a 1956 radio interview
with Sydney Rogers in West Oakland
several months after her arrest,
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."

She 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.
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."

The day of Parks' trial
— Monday, December 5, 1955 —
 the WPC distributed the 35,000 leaflets.
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."


It rained that day, but the black community
persevered in their boycott. Some rode in carpools,
while others traveled in black-operated cabs
 that charged the same fare as the bus, 10 cents.
Most of the remainder of the 40,000 black
commuters walked, some as far as 20 miles.
 In the end, the boycott lasted for 381 days.
Dozens of public buses stood idle for months,
severely damaging the bus transit company's
 finances, until the law requiring segregation
on public buses was lifted.


Through her role in sparking the boycott,
Parks played an important part in
internationalizing the awareness of the
plight of African Americans and the
civil rights struggle.


King wrote in his 1958 book
Stride Toward Freedom
that Parks' arrest was the
precipitating factor,
rather than the cause,
of the protest:

"The cause lay deep in the
record of similar injustices."

 He stated,
"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."

Rosa Parks in 1964

.Parks resided in Detroit until she died at
 the age of 92 on October 24, 2005,
City officials in Montgomery and Detroit
 announced on October 27, 2005 that
the front seats of their city buses would be
 reserved with black ribbons in honor of Parks
 until her funeral.


On October 25, 2005, Parks' coffin was
 flown to Montgomery and taken in a
horse-drawn hearse to the St. Paul
African Methodist Episcopal  church,
where she lay in repose at the altar,
dressed in the uniform of a church deaconess,
A memorial service was held there
the following morning, and one of the speakers,
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
said that if it had not been for Parks,
she would probably have never
become the Secretary of State.


In the evening the casket was
transported to Washington, D.C., and
taken, aboard a bus similar to the one
in which she made her protest, to lie
 in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda,
 making her the first woman and second
African American ever to receive this honor.


Parks received most of her national accolade
 very late in life, with relatively few awards
and honors being given to her until many decades
after the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

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 Jr. Award the next year.

Rosa Parks is pictured here when
she accepted the award
from the NAACPin 1979

She was inducted into the
Michigan Women's Hall of Fame
in 1983 for her achievements
 in civil rights.

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."

 In 1992, she received the
 Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award
along with Dr. Benjamin Spock and others
at the Kennedy Library and Museum
in Boston, Massachusetts.

On September 9, 1996,
President Bill Clinton
 presented Parks with the
Presidential Medal of Freedom,
the highest honor given by the
U.S. executive branch.

Rosa Parks pictured here when she
accepted the award from Bill Clinton in 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 and received the
Detroit-Windsor International Freedom
 Festival Freedom Award.

 In 1999, Time magazine
 named Parks one of
the 20 most influential and
 iconic figures of the
twentieth century.

 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 awarded two dozen honorary
 doctorates from universities worldwide,
and was made an honorary member
of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

On December 1, 2000,
the Rosa Parks Library and Museum
on the campus of Troy University
in Montgomery, was dedicated to her.
It is located on the corner where
Parks boarded the famed bus.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed
Parks on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

On October 30, 2005, President George W. Bush
issued a proclamation ordering that all flags on
U.S. public areas both within the country
and abroad be flown at half-staff on the
day of Parks' funeral.

On December1, 2005,  
President George W. Bush
signed Pub.L. 109-116 ,
directing that a statue of Parks
be placed in the United States
Capitol's National Statuary Hall.
In signing the resolution directing
 the Joint Commission on the Library
 to do so, the President stated:

“ By placing her statue in the heart of the
 nation's Capitol, we commemorate
 her work for a more perfect union, and
we commit ourselves to continue to
struggle for justice for every American. ”


I have learned over the years that when
one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear;
knowing what must be done does away with fear.

Stand for something or
you will fall for anything.
Today's mighty oak is
yesterday's nut that held its ground.

I knew someone had to take the first step
 and I made up my mind not to move.

I do the very best I can to look upon life
with optimism and hope and looking forward
 to a better day, but I don't think there
 is anything such as complete happiness.

I think when you say you're happy,
you have everything that you need
and everything that you want,
and nothing more to wish for.
I haven't reached that stage yet.

I would like to be known as a person who
is concerned about freedom and equality
 and justice and prosperity for all people.

The 8 free images are in public domain and can be found at this link:


  1. What a wonderful tribute to Rosa Parks! I'm completely enamored with the first image of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King in the background, wow!

  2. Thank you for your remarkable tributes on your pages, Kym ! you have a wonderful generous soul, may Easter time be sweet and happy for you !

    there is something for you on my blog...


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