Rosa Louise Parks has been called the "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement." By not giving up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus, Rosa Parks started a protest that was felt throughout the United States. Her quiet, courageous act changed America and redirected the course of history.
Name: Rosa Louise McCauley Parks
Birth: February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, to James and Leona McCauley
Childhood: Grew up on a small farm with her brother, mother, and grandparents
Childhood Fears: Hearing the Ku Klux Klan ride at night, listening to lynchings, and being afraid the house would burn down
School: Attended a school for African American children. The old, one-room schoolhouse was only open five months a year and just went up to sixth grade. In 1924, at age 11, she was sent to Montgomery to continue her studies. Five years later, she left school in order to care for her sick grandmother and later, her mother.
Marriage/Young Adult Years: Married barber and civil rights activist Raymond Parks in 1932. With Raymond's support, Rosa finally graduated from high school in 1934. Together, they worked for the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
- 1930s–1955: Seamstress
- 1943: Appointed secretary of the NAACP's Montgomery branch and later its youth leader
- 1965–1988: Worked as a receptionist and office assistant for John Conyers, an African American congressman. Part of her job involved helping homeless people get housing.
- 1987–Present: Established the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. Its ongoing mission is to motivate and direct youth to achieve their highest potential.
Greatest Achievement: Sparking the modern civil rights movement in the United States by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. Rosa Parks's arrest for breaking Montgomery segregation laws started a boycott of the city bus line that lasted 381 days. This eventually led to the 1956 Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation illegal on public buses.
Later Adult Years: After moving to Michigan in 1957, Rosa Parks continued the fight for equal rights and treatment for African Americans. On several occasions, Mrs. Parks returned to Montgomery to support Dr. King in demonstrations and civil rights marches.
Awards: Over the years, Rosa Parks received hundreds of awards and honors, including the Medal of Freedom Award, presented by President Clinton in 1996.
Death: Rosa Parks, who inspired a generation to fight for civil rights, died in 2005 at the age of 92.
Read an interview with Rosa Parks and learn more about her story in our student activity, Rosa Parks: How I Fought for Civil Rights. Then, give your students the writing prompt: How would you feel in Rosa Parks's shoes?