Rosa Parks: Making A Difference
Rosa Park was one of the most influential and inspirational women throughout the 1900’s and is still known today. By one small act, she helped change the lives of many African Americans but also helped equality between men and women. Rosa Parks simple act of refusing to give up her seat is seen as the beginning of the powerful civil rights movement of the 1960s.
On February 4, 1913, Rosa Louise McCauley (Parks) was born in Tuskegee, Alabama but lived with her grandparents in Pine Level. As a child, Rosa was faced with many racial discriminations and activism for racial equality that no one should have to face. One encounter she was faced with was her grandfather sit on the front porch with a shotgun while the Ku Klux Klan members set fires to other black people’s houses. Rosa’s mother sent her at the age of eleven to live with relatives that allowed her to attend a better school called the Industrial School for Girls. The school was started by a white woman, Alice White, whom Rosa adored. From Miss White, Rosa learned to respect herself. She would not set low goals for herself just because she was black (McDonough, pg. 19). Rosa was one in ten African Americans who earned a degree. In 1941, as Rosa went home from her job at the army air force base in Montgomery known as the Maxwell Field, she had to ride a segregated bus. Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus which made her very mad. One afternoon Rosa paid her fare to ride the Cleveland Avenue bus. The bus was very crowed, so she entered through the front doors which was against the rules. The driver ordered her to get off the bus and enter the right way, but when she wouldn’t he stopped the bus and yanked her along. Before she reached the front doors, she sat down in an empty seat for white people (McDonough, pg. 48). This is the event that started Rosa’s fight to end the segregation between men and women.
1943, Rosa joined the NAACP, the first step she took to begin change for black people was registering to vote. The process she had to go through was very challenging from, taking a hard test on government rules and paying $16.50. In 1955 Rosa went to a ten-day training workshop that taught people to fight for workers’ rights and equal rights for blacks (McDonough, pg. 52). After the workshop she went home feeling uplifted and stronger to work for equality. On Tuesday, December 1, 1955, Rosa got on the Cleveland Avenue bus and sat down in a seat reserved for blacks. Rosa described the events that followed next as “A white man had to stand.” Jim Black the bus driver yelled at the blacks “Move y’all. I want those two seats. Y’all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats!” Two men and a woman got up, but Rosa did not. The driver did not like the reaction he got from Rosa, so he marched up to her to say, “I am going to have you arrested.” “You may do that,” Rosa replied. The police officers showed up and took her to jail (McDonough, pg. 61-63). Eventually, many people new about Rosa’s arrest.
To spread the word Edgar Daniel Nixon, leader of the NAACP wanted Rosa to bring a lawsuit against the city bus company. Rosa agreed to the lawsuit because the Jim Crow laws, the separation of blacks and whites in public facilities had to end. Rosa’s lawyer Fred Gray wanted all the black people in Montgomery to boycott- he wanted them to avoid riding the public buses for a single day (McDonough, pg. 72). The boycott took place on Monday, December 5, 1955 on the day of Rosa’s trial, it was a huge success that lasted over a year. As the trial began the bus driver and two other white passengers lied by saying there was an empty seat for blacks that Rosa would not move to. However, this was okay, Rosa need to be found guilty because only the higher court had the power to end the bus rules. Until the trial of the higher court Rosa was able to speak about her experiences at churches and NAACP meetings. She even went as far as New York City to speak at Madison Square Garden where she met Eleanor Roosevelt, a longtime champion of Civil rights. On November 13, 1956, the United States Supreme Court said that bus segregation was unconstitutional (McDonough, pg. 82). From then blacks could ride anywhere on the buses.
Rosa Parks was one of the most influential and inspirational women from being given the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and in 1996 President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom along with the Congressional Gold Meal. Also, in 1987 Parks confounded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute of Self-Development. The group sponsored several programs to educate people about the civil rights movement (“Rosa Parks”). She is still remembered today. President Brock Obama had a statue unveiled at the U.S. Capital in Washington, DC of Rosa in 2013 (“Rosa Parks”).
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