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Rosa Parks Civil Rights Activist

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Rosa Parks in the Civil Rights Era

You can walk through any school in this nation and ask any student if they know who Rosa Parks is. Most students would say that she was the African American woman who did not move from the front of the bus to give up her seat to a white man. The majority of students pay little attention to the impact her decision had on the United States. She was one of the key components of the civil rights movement and is referred to as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”. Rosa Parks stood up for what she believed, and in doing so she sparked a huge part of the Civil Rights Movement.

Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley, who worked as a carpenter, and Leona McCauley, who was a teacher. At the age of 11 she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, which was a private school founded by a group of liberal-minded women. The school taught the girls the meaning of self-worth and pride. They learned to "take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few there were." After finishing at Montgomery Industrial School, Rosa went on to Alabama State Teachers College (Hull). Rosa then married Raymond Parks and settled in Montgomery with her new husband. They shared similar views when it came to civil rights. They both put in a lot of effort to help benefit the cause. They joined the local chapter of the NAACP and helped to improve the movement to keep segregation down (Haskins).

Working on cases with the NAACP Rosa saw that odds were against her people. It was not all about winning these cases, but trying to gain ground with publicity. The NAACP thought that if they could get enough publicity from these cases that the segregation would hopefully decrease and eventually come to a halt. The NAACP was not getting the publicity they wanted from the court cases they pursued. They lost the majority of their cases that mostly had to do with lynching, flogging, peonage, murder, and rape. She did a lot to help out the NAACP but didn’t know how to stand out (Haskins).

In Alabama, during this time, the laws for bus riding stated that African Americans had to pay their fare to the bus driver in the front, then get off, walk to the rear entrance, and board the bus from the back of the bus. African American riders were only able to sit in the seats toward the back of the bus (Hull). On occasion African Americas weren’t even able to sit if there was a white passenger without a seat. The Africans would either have to find another seat farther back, get off the bus, or stand while the bus went on its route. African American passengers were not allowed to sit across the aisle from Whites in the same row (Academy of Achievement). Even after all of these rules, some bus drivers would close the doors and take off before the rider got to the back door of the bus and leave them stranded.

December 1, 1955 Rosa was 42 years old. She was coming home from her job as a seam stress, and was planning on using the Montgomery bus system. She boarded the bus and took her seat at the back of the bus which she was content with. Three stops later all of the seats on the bus were taken up and a white man remained standing. The bus driver saw this and ordered three African Americans and Rosa Parks to vacate their seats so the white man could sit. The three African Americans stood up, while Mrs. Parks stayed sitting. The bus driver asked her if she was going to move, and she calmly answered she would not. In her biography Rosa says that she was not tired from work, but tired from the segregation that was going on (Parks). The bus driver told her he would have her arrested and she said “You may do that”. The driver stopped the bus and had Rosa Parks arrested.

Word spread quickly and talk was speculating around the town. Rosa was a well respected lady, and a stable member of the community. Being so well-respected, black activists saw this case as a good chance to help the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor and a civil rights activist in the town. He set up a meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church which was the church he was pastor at. Mr. King and The Women’s Political Council both did a huge part in spreading the word to avoid riding the city buses (Academy of Achievement). The Women's Political Council even printed 35,000 handbills urging African Americans to do whatever was necessary to avoid riding the city buses. Two thirds



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