Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005)
On December 1, 1955 at around 6 p.m, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey transit bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Parks was charged with a violation of Chapter 6, Section 11 segregation law of the Montgomery City code.
Her arrest for disobeying the bus driver's authority to enforce Montgomery's segregation laws led to the end of those laws and helped fuel the Civil Rights Movement.
At the time of her action, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Because she sat down and refused to give up her seat to a white passenger, she was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black people to relinquish seats to white people when the bus was full. (Blacks also had to sit at the back of the bus.) Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system. It also led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.
The No. 2857 bus on which Parks was riding before she was arrested (a GM "old-look" transit bus, serial number 1132), is now a museum exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum.
Exact spot on Dexter Avenue where Rosa Parks waited for the bus that changed history. Montgomery, Alabama
Rosa McCauley was born in 1913 in Alabama. At age 20, she married Raymond Parks, who encouraged her to earn her high school diploma. The couple was active in the Montgomery Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). While working as a tailor's assistant, Mrs. Parks served as chapter secretary. Later, she advised the NAACP Youth Council. Denied the right to vote on at least two occasions because of her race, Rosa Parks also worked with the Voters League to prepare blacks to register to vote.
Parks's arrest was followed by a one-day bus boycott on her court date. To successfully challenge segregated public transport, however, the NAACP knew it needed continued action. The new pastor at the local Dexter Avenue Baptist Church became the leader of the boycott. His name was Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. King insisted on nonviolent action to achieve the goal of justice. "We must use the weapon of love," he said. In December 1956, the Supreme Court banned segregation on public transportation, and the boycott ended over a year after it had begun. Rosa Parks became known as the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement," honored with awards around the world.
* Credit line: The George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
* Gift; George F. Landegger; 2010; (DLC/PP-2010:090).
* Forms part of: George F. Landegger Collection of Alabama Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith's America Project in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive.