Women in History: Rosa Parks

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  • was born in 1913 and was born Rosa Louise McCauley.
  • was a secretary several times (among other jobs), both for the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP and for John Conyers, who was an African-American Congressman.
  • was married.
  • was a member of the Voters’ League.
  • refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger on December 1st, 1955 in Alabama and it is for this that she is most famous, although she was not the first or only person to do this, but her actions helped to start the bus boycott in Montgomery that lasted over a year.
  • was fired from her job as a seamstress for standing her ground.
  • was called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” by Congress.
  • started the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.
  • has a section of Missouri highway named after her.
  • has a holiday in her honor in both California and Ohio.
  • made a cameo in Touched By An Angel.
  • had her death noted on ESPN’s bottom ticker, where usually only sports news is broadcast.
  • laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda upon her death in 2005, the 31st person to be laid there and only the second non-government official to do so (first American non-governmental official), the second African American, and the very first woman to do so.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rosa_Parks_Booking.jpg


Others said

  • “My God, look what segregation has put in my hands!” – Edgar Nixon, referring to the fact that Rosa Parks and her actions would be a perfect challenge to the system
  • “One of the finest citizens of Montgomery—not one of the finest Negro citizens, but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Actually, no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, ‘I can take it no longer.'” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene — just a very special person … There was only one Rosa Parks.” – John Conyers, the Congressman that Rosa Parks worked for
  • “By placing her statue in the heart of the nation’s Capitol, we commemorate her work for a more perfect union, and we commit ourselves to continue to struggle for justice for every American.” – President George W. Bush
  • Rosa Parks’ singular act of disobedience launched a movement. The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind.” – President Barack Obama
  • “The first lady of civil rights, the mother of the movement, the saint of an endless struggle.” – Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina
  • “The medal, you could take it, put it on a mantle. But her being in the hall itself is permanent.” Rhea McCauley, a niece of Rosa Parks
  • “She seemed to me a very — not shy, but modest. A very modest woman, and I wanted that to come through. That she wasn’t ever looking for attention or celebrity, but she was just doing what she had to do.” – Eugene Daub, sculptor of her statue in the Capitol.
  • “She defied the odds, and she defied injustice. She lived a life of activism but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America — and change the world.” President Barack Obama
  • “We do well by placing a statue of her here. But we can do no greater honor than to remember and to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.” – President Barack Obama
  • “For some, Rosa Parks served as an inspiration to stand up against injustice. For others, she was a spur to reflection and self-examination, and the reconciliation of cherished ideals of freedom, democracy and constitutional rights with the reality of life as others lived it.” – Mitch McConnell, Republican Senator from Kentucky
  • “We talked about what it was like and how important it was for her to do what she did. It’s so personal because I know what my aunt went through. And it was beyond just being physically tired. She was tired of the injustice.” – Urana McCauley, niece of Rosa Parks
  • “The pursuit is not over. To honor Rosa Parks in the fullest manner, each of us must do our part to preserve what has been gained, to defend the great documents upon which those gains were obtained, and continue our pursuit of a more perfect union.” – Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina
  • “She was not a meek woman. She meant to make something happen.” – Reverend Jesse L. Jackson

From http://www.achievement.org/achievers/par0/large/par0-018.jpg

She said

  • I’d see the bus pass every day… But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.
  • My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest…I did a lot of walking in Montgomery.
  • When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.
  • When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You may do that.’
  • I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen.
  • People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.
  • Back then, we didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.
  • I didn’t have any special fear. It was more of a relief to know that I wasn’t alone.
  • I worked on numerous cases with the NAACP, but we did not get the publicity. There were cases of flogging, peonage, murder, and rape. We didn’t seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens.
  • The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.

I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time… there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.

I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope and looking forward to a better day, but I don’t think there is any such thing as complete happiness. It pains me that there is still a lot of Klan activity and racism. I think when you say you’re happy, you have everything that you need and everything that you want, and nothing more to wish for. I haven’t reached that stage yet.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rosaparks.jpg

Awards and Honors

  • NAACP Spingarn Medal for 1979
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Congressional Gold Medal – “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement”
  • Rosa Parks Boulevard  and Rosa Parks Transit Center  in Detroit
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Award
  • Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame
  • Part of Interstate 475 outside of Toledo, Ohio is named after her
  • Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award
  • Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award
  • International Freedom Conductor Award (the first one to receive it)
  • Detroit-Windsor International Freedom Festival Freedom Award
  • Named one of the 20 most influential and iconic figures of the 20th century by Time magazine
  • Alabama Academy of Honor
  • Governor’s Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage
  • At least two dozen honorary doctorates from universities and colleges around the world
  • Alpha Kappa Alpha honorary member
  • Rosa Parks Library and Museum at Troy University
  • Named one of the 100 Greatest African Americans by Molefi Kete Asante
  • Part of Interstate 10 in L.A. is named after her, as well as a station in the Los Angeles County MetroRail
  • A Statue in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall (first full length African American in the Capitol)
  • Part of Interstate 96 (Detroit, MI) is named after her
  • Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center in New York
  • Rosa L. Parks Boulevard in Nashville
  • Rosa Parks Circle in Grand Rapids, MI
  • Rosa Parks Drive in West Valley City, Utah
  • Rosa Parks Freedom Award established in her honor
  • Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation – for high schoolers in Michigan

Books (Note, I haven’t read them, I just found them)

If you want to know more about Rosa Parks, the Library of Congress has put together A Guide to Materials on her.


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