Rosa Parks, RIP

Moday, at the age of 92, Rosa Parks died of natural causes at home with her family in Detroit. With Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Parks was the icon of the Civil Rights movement. Recognizing the singular contribution of Mrs. Parks, In December of 2000 the Rosa Parks Library and Museum was opened in Montgomery, AL to honor this icon. This status and recognition has been more richly deserved than most Americans realize. In the historiography of Mrs. Parks' infamous bus ride that ended in jail, the icon is referred to always as a seamstress. Now this is true, but there is so much more.

Rosa Parks also served as a volunteer secretary for the NAACP offices in Montgomery. They had been searching for a test case to challenge the segregated bus system in the city, a system used predominantly by black workers traveling to their jobs. Mrs. Parks' refusal to surrender her seat to a white man, though unplanned, was a calculated decision she recognized would end in her arrest, thus providing a test case for the courts. Yes, she was tired after a long day at work, but it was Rosa Parks not serendipity that sparked the fifteen months of grassroots protests known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

One last bit of trivia. When Mrs. Parks was asked to surrender her seat, she was not sitting in the whites only section at the front of the bus. Following standard protocol of the time, Parks paid her fare to the driver at the front of the bus, then exited and re-entered the rear door. She was sitting in the properly designated "Colored" section three stops later when the bus driver ordered Mrs. Parks to surrender her seat to a white passenger, thus reducing the size of the "Colored" section while expanding that for the white passengers. This was common practice throughout the South prior to Montgomery.

If more people had the courage of their convictions and the determination to challenge what is wrong in this world, as Rosa Parks did, maybe, just maybe that world would become slightly more livable.


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