Rosa Parks Biography

Rosa Parks Biography

Rosa Parks: Activist

Rosa was born to a teacher and carpenter in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913. Though the Civil War had long ended, former Confederate States were quick to adopt social, voting, and economic laws that disenfranchised black citizens. Facilities and stores upheld racial segregation via de facto laws and de jure public attitudes, especially harsh in the south. Segregation extended to black education, often underfunded, and transportation. For instance, school bus transport for black children was virtually nonexistent. Parks recounts: “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.”

Rosa Parks Bus Boycott

Parks married at 19, to a Montgomery-chapter NAACP member, where she later became a secretary until 1957. Despite aggressive state laws, she was able to register to vote in Alabama and worked on an integrated Air Force base in 1945.

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a near-empty bus on her way home from work around 6pm. The bus filled quickly, prompting the driver to move the colored-only seats back one row, demanding that Parks and three others give up their seats for standing whites. The three people obeyed, but Parks stayed, determined not to move. She was immediately arrested when police were called. Three days later the call to boycott buses by black Montgomery citizens went out through local newspapers and churches, which was a huge success. The following day, the Montgomery Improvement Association formed, with MLK Jr. elected as their president. After a 381-day boycott, the bus segregation law was declared unconstitutional due to a different case in federal court. Though Parks wasn’t the first to stage a sit-in of this nature, she helped ignite a movement for civil rights.

Civil Rights Legacy

Rosa Parks continued a career of activism throughout her life, working to address housing segregation and other injustices. Much of her time was spent in Detroit and with the Black Panthers, empowering black citizens to take up activism. She notably called Malcolm X a personal hero. Parks was so publicly honored by the US that she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

By the end of the 1980s, Parks was in failing health, but still served on the Board for Planned Parenthood, as well as started a scholarship foundation in her name.