When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, it sparked a movement that will forever change America. After being convicted of violating the segregation laws, the local black community led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. initiated a boycott that went on for a year. The “Montgomery boycott” was the first of many initiatives push for the abolition of segregation laws nationwide.
The roots for her activism can be traced from when she was a child when her mother moved Rosa and her brother to Pine, Alabama. They lived with her grandparents who were both former slaves and strongly against racial discrimination. As a child she attended a segregated and experienced being forced to walk to school houses while white students were provided with bus transportation.
At 19, she married Raymond Parks who worked as a barber and is an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). Although she was initially discouraged by Raymond, she joined the NAACP as secretary and Montgomery leader under NAACP president E.D. Nixon.
Montgomery city is governed by the Jim Crow segregation laws, and it is stated that public transportation operators are required to provide accommodation to both blacks and whites. They did this by putting a barrier right in the middle of the bus where the front is reserved for the whites, and the back of the bus for the blacks. This is the reason why a lot of the people in the black community would rather avoid riding the bus because of its demeaning conditions.
Rosa Parks was riding the bus on her way from work when a white man got on and found that he had no seats left in the white section. The driver then told commuters of the first four seats of the black section to vacate their seats and make way for the white man. All three riders got up to sit further back in the bus, but Parks did not. In her autobiography she said, “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… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Two police officers got on the bus to determine what happened, and she was placed in custody.
News of what happened to her had spread quickly, and soon after being convicted, E.D. Nixon together with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. created the Montgomery Improvement Association to manage the bus boycott.
After the boycott, Rosa and her family decided to move to Detroit because the threats were continually being thrown at her. But she remained persistent in fighting for the civil rights of the black community and became a symbol of strength and integrity among them.
What Rosa Parks showed is the prime example of courage under hate, in the face of kings who want nothing more than to be superior among them. She was more than just a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, she was the movement.