- Grades: 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Rosa Louise Parks is nationally recognized as the Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement in America. Her refusal to surrender her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, December 1, 1955, triggered a wave of protest December 5, 1955 that reverberated throughout the United States. Her quiet, courageous act changed America, its view of black people, and redirected the course of history.
Mrs. Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley, February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was the first child of James and Leona Edwards McCauley. Later, the family moved to Pine Level, Alabama, where Rosa was reared and educated in the rural school.
When Rosa completed her education in Pine Level at age eleven, her mother enrolled her in Montgomery Industrial School for Girls (Miss White's School for Girls), a private institution. After finishing Miss White's School, she went on to Alabama State Teachers College's High School. However, she was unable to graduate with her class because of the illness and subsequent death of her grandmother, Rose Edwards. As Rosa prepared to return to Alabama State, her mother also became ill. Therefore, she remained home to care for her mother while her brother worked outside to help support the family.
Rosa married Raymond Parks, December 18, 1932. Raymond, now deceased, was born in Wedowee, Alabama on February 12, 1903. He received little formal education due to racial segregation; but with the encouragement of his mother, Geri Parks, Raymond was a self-educated person. However, his immaculate dress and his thorough knowledge of domestic affairs and current events made most people think that he was college educated. He supported Rosa's desire to complete her formal education, and she received her high school diploma in 1934.
Mr. Parks was an early activist in the effort to free the "Scottsboro Boys," a celebrated case in the 1930s. Together, Raymond and Rosa worked in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was an active member and she served as secretary and later youth leader of the local branch. At the time of her arrest, she was preparing for a major youth conference.
After the arrest of Rosa Parks, black people of Montgomery and sympathizers of other races organized and promoted a boycott of the city bus line that lasted 381 days. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was appointed the spokesperson for the Bus Boycott and taught non-violence to all participants. Contingent with the protest in Montgomery, others took shape throughout the south and the country. They took form as sit-ins, eat-ins, swim-ins and similar methods. Thousands of courageous people joined the "protest" to demand equal rights for all.
From 1965 to 1988, Mrs. Parks was employed by Congressman John Conyers, First Congressional District of Michigan. In February, 1987 she began the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. The purpose of the Institute is to motivate and direct youth not targeted by other programs to achieve their highest potential. Rosa Parks sees the energy of young people as a real force for change. It is among her most treasured themes of human priorities as she speaks to young people of all ages at schools, colleges, and national organizations around the country.
Mrs. Parks has received ten honorary doctorate degrees, hundreds of plaques, certificates, citations, awards and keys to several cities. Among them are the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, the UAW's Social Justice Award, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize, the Roger Joseph Prize from the Hebrew Union College, the Pope John XXIII medal from the College of New Rochelle, and numerous other honors. Rosa Parks: My Story, as told to Jim Haskins, was published in 1992.
A quiet exemplification of courage, dignity, and determination, Rosa Parks is a symbol to all Americans to remain free.