Many of you probably know a little about Rosa Parks: she was the African-American woman who wouldn’t give up her seat on the bus when bus driver James F. Blake ordered her to give up her spot so some white people could take it. But that’s only part of her life. She was an incredible activist throughout her life who did much more than refuse to give into a racist command.
Rosa Parks grew up as a strong young woman who could never ignore the racism around her. When bullied by white children, she often fought back. Later in life, she would say about this, “As far back as I remember, I could never think in terms of accepting physical abuse without some form of retaliation if possible.”
In the early thirties, Rosa married her husband, Raymond Parks. At his urging, she finished high school, an achievement that very few black people could boast at the time.
As an adult, Parks became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, joining the NAACP and becoming their secretary. She became involved in investigating important cases, including the gang-rape of Recy Taylor. In the 1940s, Rosa and her husband became members of the Voters’ League.
December 1, 1955 was the day that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. She was arrested for it. Her actions lead to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was an action where many African-Americans boycotted the buses because of Mrs. Parks’s unfair treatment, and where they demanded certain improvements, like the hiring of black bus drivers and a first-come, first-serve seating arrangement.
Rosa’s arrest made her an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, but she suffered dearly for it. She lost her job and her husband was forced to quit his job. She received death threats as well. She and her husband decided to move from Montgomery to Virginia, and later that year, they relocated to Detroit. In Detroit, Rosa Parks did a lot of work dealing with housing segregation and other housing issues. She also participated in national activist activities, including the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches.
Throughout the rest of Rosa Parks’s life, she did activist work. She was clearly a woman with a passion for the rights for her brothers and sisters and we would do well to take a page from her book and be more like her.
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