Civil Rights Leader Dies
Rosa Parks speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, January 15, 1969. (Joe Holloway Jr./AP Wide World)
Rosa Parks, who inspired a generation to fight for civil rights, died on Monday at age 92. Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, nearly 50 years ago. She was arrested and fined for breaking the law.
In response to her arrest, black men and women in Montgomery boycotted, or refused to use, the city buses. They demanded an end to segregation, or laws that denied equal rights to black people. A young pastor at the local church named Martin Luther King Jr. led the boycott. Because of the protesters' refusal to ride the buses, the bus system nearly went out of business.
Many believe that Parks's bold decision triggered the civil rights movement, a struggle to grant Americans the same rights, regardless of their color. "She sat down in order that we might stand up," said civil rights leader Jesse Jackson yesterday. "Her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom."
Parks's action showed how one person could make a big impact. She inspired others, including Martin Luther King Jr., to use nonviolence and civil disobedience as a way to protest problems in society.
The Montgomery bus boycott lasted 381 days. Throughout those months, churches and homes in the black community were attacked. Despite threats to their lives, the community continued to refuse to ride the buses. In November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses. After the court order arrived in Montgomery, blacks began riding the buses again, sitting wherever they pleased.
Following the boycott, Parks moved with her family to Detroit, Michigan. A newly elected member of the House of Representatives named John Conyers Jr. hired her as a staff assistant. She remained there until 1988, when she retired.
"There are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of the nation," said Conyers. "And Rosa Parks is one of those individuals."
On December 1, Montgomery will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Parks's stubbornness. Thousands of children from the area will participate in the Montgomery Children's Walk, beginning in the spot where Parks was arrested and ending at the state capitol.
Ezra Billinkoff is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.