Who is Rosa Parks?

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Learn about Rosa Parks, the woman who sparked the fight for equality and human rights in America.

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On December 1, 1955, a black woman named Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to stand and let a male white rider take her seat on a bus.  She was immediately arrested and thrown in jail, but her fight sparked a spirit of uprising between whites and blacks alike at the idea and state of slavery in America at the time.  

The reason for her arrest was simple: blacks were to sit in the back of the bus and they were to surrender a seat if a white person of any sort came onto the bus.  Blacks were not allowed to question of this arrangement, and it was supported by a criminal sentence.  There was no argument on Parks' side, and no fight.  She was roughed up on her way to the police station.

The reason behind the impact of her stand was the fact that she was once the secretary of the President of the NAACP, and also the wife of a prominent black activist.  Her refusal and jail time was commented upon by Dr. Martin Luther King, who immediately organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus corporation.

His speeches led to his house being bombed and the arrest of many of those working with him.  Blacks had no way to get to work, but were arrested for walking or asking for a ride to work.  Many were jailed alongside Rosa Parks herself.  The Supreme Court settled the decision to end segregation in Montgomery, after a boycott of 381 days, a little over a year.  For many blacks this meant the loss of a job, and jail time.  The decision was met with extreme disapproval from whites and cheers from the black community.  The next day, Martin Luther King rode beside a minister in the front seat of a bus on the way to work.

Parks followed a legacy of non-violent resistance that existed before her.  Through her quiet resistance to an unjust law, she joined the ranks of Mahatma Ghandi and other leaders that protested unfair conditions with quiet, steady protest.  Her decision to sit is perhaps more important than the Supreme Court decision that followed her.  She  is a prime example of the power of one, a power that is very often never discovered.

Parks is remembered to this day for being the prime catalyst for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  She has been listed in countless magazines as a hero of the nineties, and Time magazine listed her as one of the top 100 people for the twentieth century.  In addition, she has been offered countless honorary doctorates from various universities across the world.

In her own words, Parks stated that she would like to be known for contributing to the "freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people."  Her stand did just this.  She was the catalyst for future fights and victories in the war against segregation.  Parks moved to Detroit some years after her stand against the entire white community and began programs to promote black equality.