Honoring Rosa Parks
America remembers civil rights icon on her 100th birthday
On Monday, America celebrates the 100th birthday of a civil rights icon: Rosa Parks.
Parks was born on February 4, 1913. For the first 42 years of her life, she was an ordinary citizen. But all that changed during a simple bus ride.
At the time, Parks lived and worked in Montgomery, Alabama, during a time of intense segregation, discrimination, and racism. As a black person, she wasn't allowed to sit at the same places as white people in restaurants, use the same doors and bathrooms as white people, or attend the same schools.
On December 1, 1955, Parks boarded a bus after a long workday and sat down in the first row of seats in the "colored" section. But as the bus filled up and more and more white people got on the bus, the bus driver demanded she give up her seat. She refused.
The driver called the police and Parks was taken to jail.
In an interview from 1956, Parks explained why she refused to give up her seat. "I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen."
In the days after Parks' arrest, her life had changed. She became a hero to civil rights advocates across the country and inspired the next generation of leaders, including a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She also became a leader herself in the fight for equality.
"She had a unique personality," Donna Braden told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. "She was also an ordinary person. When people heard about what she did, they thought I can do that too."
Braden is the curator of social life at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The museum is home to the actual bus that Parks rode when she refused to give up her seat.
Decades after Parks' refusal to give up her seat, she still influences and inspire people -- including kids. When students learn about the civil rights movement, they learn about three prominent individuals: Dr. King, Ruby Bridges, and Rosa Parks.
Students today think that what Parks did nearly 60 years ago was special.
"Rosa Parks did a simple thing that began something big," says an Emily L., a student at Emerson School, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Parks continued to fight for equal rights until her death on October 24, 2005. When she died, her casket was placed under the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building for two days so everybody could honor her life. This is usually reserved for US presidents.
She was the first woman and the second African-American to receive this honor.
"Just wanting to get home after a long day at work, Rosa Parks may not have been planning to make history, but her defiance spurred a movement that advanced our journey toward justice and equality for all," President Barack Obama said in a presidential proclamation honoring Parks' 100th birthday.
Rosa Parks was an ordinary person but showed that anyone can make a difference if they stand up -- or in this case sit down -- for what they think is right. She is revered for her courage and lack of selfishness. She is truly an American hero.
Happy Birthday, Mrs. Parks!
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