On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was on her way home from work when she was arrested. She was a black seamstress. And her crime was refusing to move to the back of a public bus so that a white man could take her seat. Parks later said, "My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest." In fact, she and many other blacks had often protested the humiliation of being treated like second-class citizens. But "that particular arrest" sparked a citywide bus boycott by African Americans. It lasted 381 days. The boycott was led by a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This marked the birth of the modern civil rights movement. The attention it received increased national awareness of racial segregation and discrimination. Since that time, Parks has been known as the mother of the civil rights movement.
She was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. At age 19, she married Raymond Parks, a barber. Rosa was the first woman to join the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She worked there as chapter secretary and adviser to the youth council. She also helped blacks register to vote.
After her arrest in 1955, Parks could no longer find work in Montgomery. She and her husband moved north and eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan. She continued working as a seamstress until 1965, when she joined the staff of Democratic U.S. congressman John Conyers, Jr. She retired in 1988.
Rosa Parks received many awards in her lifetime. They included the Spingarn Medal (1979), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1996), and the Congressional Gold Medal (1999). Her memoir, Rosa Parks: My Story, was published in 1992. She died in Detroit on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92. She was the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda. In 2013, a full-length statue of Parks was placed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Parks was the first African American woman to be so honored.
"Parks, Rosa (1913-2005)." Reviewed by William E. Shapiro. The New Book of Knowledge. Grolier Online, 2015. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.