Seamstress, Civil Rights Leader (1913–2005)
“This is an eloquent statement. But there is no verbal eloquence to match the eloquence of her action. Has a refusal to stand up ever had such repercussions? She told the police that they had her permission to arrest her. She would not relinquish the significance of her act to the mere enforcers of an unjust law.” (Robert Shetterly).
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was riding home from work on a city bus. When asked by the driver to give up her seat to a white man, she refused. For this one act she was arrested, fingerprinted and put in jail, and from this one act grew the 382-day Montgomery bus boycott of which Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the leaders. In 1956 the U.S. Supreme Court declared that segregation of public transportation is against the law.
Born in rural Alabama, Rosa Parks was no stranger to the struggle for racial justice. At the time of her famous refusal to move to the back of the bus, Mrs. Parks was secretary of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP. She also worked as a seamstress for a downtown department store.
In her 1994 memoir, Quiet Strength, Rosa Parks wrote: “I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents and how strong they were. I knew that there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given me to do what I had asked of others.”