92 Year Old Rosa Parks Passes Onby David Roknich
As she made her way through the throngs at the courthouse, a demure figure in a long-sleeved black dress with white collar and cuffs, a trim black velvet hat, gray coat and white gloves, a girl in the crowd caught sight of her and cried out, "Oh, she's so sweet. They've messed with the wrong one now!"
Poet Rita Dove on Rosa Parks
Rosa parks wasn't tired the day she refused to surrender her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alambama on that famous day in 1955: she was tired of the injustice that would require 4 black people to move so a white man could be seated. The bus driver was the same man who threatened to put Rosa off the bus 12 years previously, and he now asked 4 people to move. Rosa Parks was the only one who refused. This wasn't an entirely spontaneous decison: the NAACP was planning to challenge the law that required blacks accept discrimminatory treatment on buses, and Rosa was the secretary for their chapter in Montgomery. She and her husband had worked with the NAACP since the 30s:
"I worked on numerous cases with the NAACP," Mrs. Parks recalled, "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."Continuing from a Biography at the Academy of Achievement website:
The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by the young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. The boycott lasted 382 days and brought Mrs. Parks, Dr. King, and their cause to the attention of the world. A Supreme Court Decision struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.A good outline of Rosa's lifelong quest for justice has been assembled at Wikipedia. Here are a few excerpts:
- Parks was not the first African American to refuse to give up her seat to a white person. The NAACP accepted and litigated other cases before, such as that of Irene Morgan, ten years earlier, which resulted in a victory in the Supreme Court on Commerce Clause grounds. That victory only overturned state segregation laws as applied to actual travel in interstate commerce, such as interstate bus travel. Black leaders had begun to build a case around a 15-year-old girl's arrest for refusing to relinquish her bus seat, and Mrs. Parks had been among those who were raising money for the girl's defense. However, when they learned that the girl was pregnant, they decided that she was an unsuitable symbol for their cause. Dr. King said, "Mrs. Parks, on the other hand, was regarded as one of the finest citizens of Montgomery - not one of the finest Negro citizens - but one of the finest citizens of Montgomery."
- The Rosa Parks case is considered the landmark because it applied to all segregationist laws, not just those affecting interstate commerce.
- Jackie Robinson took a similar, but less-well-known, stand while an Army officer in 1944 in Fort Hood, Texas, refusing to move to the back of a bus. He was brought before a court martial, which acquitted him.
A Rosa Parks Retrospective:
compiled by DOGSPOT