The woman who sat on the bus

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Born on February 4th, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, Rosa Parks stirred up quite a protest which eventually made way the relaxation of segregation laws in America. From her childhood, Rosa was brought up in an environment where there was extreme racism but also the prominence of fights for equality. After her parents’ separation, Rosa and her mother stayed at her grandparents’ in Pine Level, Alabama, who were both former slaves and activists who were in the forefront for the fight for equality. Rosa was taught to read at a tender age by her mother and later attended a segregated school, studying in a segregated one-room class which often did not possess the basic requirements like desks and chairs. The Black students had to walk all the way to their school as bus facilities were only provided to the White students, who also had the comfort of adequate school provisions. For the rest of her student life, Rosa studied at various other segregated institutions like Industrial School for Girls. Unfortunately, in 1929, when Rosa was at the time attending a laboratory school for higher education powered by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes, she had to quit in order to taking care of her ill grandmother and mother residing in Pine Level.


At 19, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber by profession but also one of the leading members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. After quitting school in 1929, Rosa, along with her husband by her side, pursued and earned her high school diploma in 1933. Shortly after that, she becomes engaged in civil rights issues in the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter in 1943, making her mark as the leader of the youth in addition to being secretary to NAACP’s President, E.D. Nixon.


In those days, the public buses were segregated into the ‘white’ section and the ‘Colored’ section, a line drawn roughly in the middle of the buses. The bus drivers had the authority of taking care of the rules that were to be followed. However, they only had the power to assign seats and not make anyone give up their seat for a white person. But Montgomery bus drivers had taken it on themselves to force the Blacks on giving up their seats had the seats for the whites became unavailable. Then came December 1st 1955. after an exhausting day at the department store, Rosa boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for returning home. as the journey continued, more passengers began to board the bus when the driver observed many white standing while the Coloreds were sitting in their seats. He conveniently shifted the dividing line back a row and asked four African-American to give up their seats. Rosa Parks was the only one who refused to get up. Naturally, she was arrested for her defiance. Later, Rosa recounted that her refusal was not merely because of physical tiredness rather the fact that she was “tired of giving in”.

After Rosa’s arrest on that day, the president of NAACP, E.D. Nixon, sought to organize a bus boycott, regarding which, newspaper ads were published and flyers given around. On December 5th 1955- the day of Rosa’s trial- the Colored community was advised to stay off the buses in protest against the injustice. Earlier that day, the community recognized the need for a new strong leader and hence, they created the Montgomery Improvement Association with Dr. Martin Luther King as minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.


Rosa was fined $14 for her resistance. The boycott had, on the other hand, become a huge success with most of the city buses standing idle at the stands. The 40,000 African-Americans preferred to take cabs or walk that boarding the buses. That meant huge losses for the transport companies. Obviously, the success of the boycott followed huge opposition with Martin Luther King’s and Nixon’s house being burnt up. Finally, with the enormous losses of the companies and the law standing in preference of the Blacks, the City had to lift the rule of segregation, with the ending of one of the longest and most successful boycotts on December 20th 1956.


After the victory, however, Rosa and her husband both lost their jobs and had to leave Montgomery for Michigan, Detroit, where Rosa banked the job of secretary and receptionist of Congressman John Conyer. In 1992 and 1995 respectively, Rosa wrote and published Rosa Parks: My Story and Quiet Strength with accounts from her life which have had profound impacts on the masses. Throughout her lifetime, Rosa received a lot of respectable awards including the Spingarn Medal, the highest award of NAACP, Martin Luther King Jr. award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton on 9th September 1996. After her death in her sleep on October 24th 2005, being diagnosed with Dementia the previous year, her memory still remains one of the most eminent even in the 21st Century.

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