Rosa Parks stood up for herself at a time when no one else would. Her courage started a movement that led to greater equality for African Americans.
- Rosa Parks was born February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her parents separated when she was two years old. She and her mother went to live with her grandparents, the Edwards, on a farm in Pine Level, Alabama.
- Rosa’s grandparents had both been slaves. They believed strongly in equality. Rosa’s grandfather once stood on his front step holding a shotgun while the Klu Klux Klan marched down the street.
- Rosa’s mother taught her to read when she was very little. Rosa attended segregated schools. White children went to one school and black children went to another — even if they lived close to each other. The schools for African American children lacked basic supplies like desks and books.
- Rosa attended high school but dropped out to take care of her mother and grandmother, who were ill. She began working in a shirt factory.
- She married Raymond Parks in 1932. Raymond was a member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He encouraged Rosa to graduate from school, which she did.
- Rosa went to work as a seamstress in a department store. She rode the bus to and from work every day.
- In those days, the buses were segregated too. White people rode on the front of the bus; black people rode on the back of the bus. A sign was placed on a seat in the middle of the bus showing which section was which.
- One afternoon, Rosa was on the bus when it filled with white people. Several of them were standing up in the aisle. The bus driver came back and moved the sign back one row. All the black people who had been sitting in those seats had to stand up. Three people moved, but Rosa said no. The bus driver asked her why she wouldn’t move. She said that she didn’t think she should have to.
- The bus driver called the police who arrested Rosa and took her to the police station. She was released later that night.
- On the morning of Rosa Parks’ trial, over 500 people came to the courthouse to show their support for her. At the same time, black leaders in the community organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. Black people in the city vowed that they would not ride the buses until segregation ended. Instead they rode bikes, took cabs, or walked to work — sometimes for as many as 20 miles.
- The bus boycott lasted almost an entire year. The buses were empty and bus drivers didn’t get paid.
- Some white people were angry about the boycott. They burned black churches and bombed the homes of E.D. Nixon and Martin Luther King, Jr., two leaders of the movement.
- Black leaders took the matter to court, arguing that segregation was against the constitution. In November, 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of them. Segregation was outlawed.
- Segregation: the practice of separating or excluding people because of their race
- Equality: equal treatment and rights
Questions and Answers
Question: What happened to Rosa after the boycott?
Answer: Both she and her husband were fired from their jobs. They moved with Rosa’s mother to Detroit, Michigan. Rosa wrote two books about her experiences and received many awards for her work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rosa died in 2005.
Learn more about Rosa Parks’ remarkable life.