Celebrate Rosa Parks, civil rights leader
Feb. 14, the birthday of Rosa Parks, is the perfect time to celebrate the life of the dedicated and brave leader in the fight for civil rights. In December1955, at the age of 42, she made one of the most courageous and significant decisions in the civil rights movements, as well as in United States history.
After a day’s work, Parks boarded a Montgomery city bus for her commute home. She took a seat near the middle of the bus behind 10 seats that were reserved for white people. As the bus began to fill, and the 10 seats reserved for whites were occupied, a white man entered the bus. Parks and three other African-American passengers were told by the driver to give up their seats.
Parks quietly refused, and in doing so, changed the course of history. She was arrested and four days later convicted of violating a city ordinance. She paid a $10 fine and court fees.
African-American leaders including E.D. Nixon, Martin Luther King, Jr. and members of the Women’s Political Council organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus system for the day of Parks’ trial. On that day, the WPC distributed the 35,000 leaflets that stated:
“We are…asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial … You can afford to stay out of school for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off the buses Monday.”
The boycott continued for more than a year and because African-Americans comprised 75 percent of the Montgomery bus riders, it was an economic problem for the city. Many of the buses remained parked until the U. S. Supreme Court repealed the segregation law in December 1956.
In Parks’ autobiography, My Story, she said that some accounts of her refusal to give up her seat on the bus related that she was tired. That, however, was not the case. She said that she was “tired of giving in.”
In 1957 Parks and her husband Ray moved to Virginia and later to Detroit. She remained active in the civil rights movement and fought for fair housing opportunities for African-American people. The loss of several loved ones in the 1970s resulted in less involvement in the movement.
Parks became an administrative aide in the Detroit office of Congressman John Conyers Jr. in 1965, a post she held until her 1988 retirement.
Her husband died in 1977 and she moved into a retirement apartment with her mother and cared for her until her death in 1979.
An eviction notice was issued in 2002 for nonpayment of rent and a Detroit church collected the needed money. Another eviction, which received national publicity, was threatened in 2004 but the owners of the property forgave the debt and said that Parks could stay there rent-free for the rest of her life.
She died Oct. 24, 2005, in Detroit.