Mother of the Civil Rights Movement

Mother of the Civil Rights Movement

Married women who are not raising children sometimes have difficulty finding inspirational role models. The story of Rosa Parks, "the mother of the civil rights movement," demonstrates that married women without children can lead successful, fulfilling lives and contribute significantly to society and future generations. While most Americans know of the important role that Rosa Parks played in the end of segregation by refusing to give up her seat on an Alabama bus, few may be aware that she has no children.

Mrs. Parks was born in Alabama in 1913, the daughter of a carpenter and a teacher. Rosa spent her early childhood on her grandparents´ farm before enrolling in Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school that taught a philosophy of self-worth. After attending Alabama State Teachers College, Rosa and her husband, Raymond Parks, settled in Montgomery, Alabama. An early pioneer in the civil rights movement, Rosa was one of the first women to join the Montgomery Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She served as the local NAACP’s secretary from 1943 to 1956 and also Advisor to the NAACP Youth Council.

On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks rode the bus home from her department store seamstress job. When a group of white men entered the bus, the driver ordered Mrs. Parks and the others sitting in her row to stand and move to the back of the bus, as required by city ordinance and state law. Mrs. Parks quietly refused to move, and the driver notified police.

Mrs. Parks was a key figure in the 382-day bus boycott to protest her arrest and conviction. 90% of the African-Americans that usually rode the bus participated, and Mrs. Parks and her husband lost their jobs due to the success of the boycott. Her appeal to the United States Supreme Court resulted in a November 1956 ruling that racial segregation on public transportation is unconstitutional. Unfortunately, the harassment that had become commonplace continued even after the Supreme Court ruling, and in 1957, the Parks moved to Detroit to escape the backlash.

In addition to her groundbreaking role in fighting racial injustice, Mrs. Parks has also contributed much to the next generation. After the death of her husband in August 1977, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, which prepares teens for career and leadership roles. The "Pathways to Freedom" program offers a summer of travel (by bus!) following the Underground Railroad and teaching the history of the civil rights movement. Today, Mrs. Parks still keeps a busy schedule, providing inspiration and support, visiting hospitals and nursing homes, and working with youth.

Rosa Parks was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century.

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