Rosa Parks: Life And Times Essay, Research Paper
Thesis Statement- Rosa Parks, through protest and public support, has become the mother of the civil rights changing segregation laws forever.
Life – Rosa Parks was born only a month before world war one started in Europe on February 4, 1913. Parks mother worked as a school teacher in Tuskegee, Alabama. James McCauley, Rosa’s dad was a carpenter. They lived in Tuskegee and owned farmland of their own. After Sylvester was born, Rosa’s little brother, her father left them and went off to live in another town. He had been cheated out of his farmland by a white man and couldn’t support the family any longer. Rosa her mother and her brother then moved to live with her grandparents on a farm in Pinelevel, which lay between Tuskegee and Montgomery, Alabama. It was a small plot of land, but it kept them all fed. From this point on Rosa was mainly brought up by her Grandparents with the assistance of her mother. Rosa gave up school when she came close to graduating, around the same time Rosa got married. Raymond Parks married Rosa McCauley December 18, 1932. He was a barber from Wedowee County, Alabama. He had little formal education but a thirst for knowledge. Her husband, Raymond Parks, encouraged her to finish her courses. In 1934 she received her diploma from Alabama State College. She was happy that she completed her education but had little hope of getting a better job. When Rosa had finished school she was lucky enough to get a job as a seamstress in a local sewing factory. Prior to the bus incident Rosa was still fighting. She had run-ins with bus drivers and was evicted from buses. Parks recalls the humiliation: “I didn’t want to pay my fare and then go around the back door, because many times, even if you did that, you might not get on the bus at all. They’d probably shut the door, drive off, and leave you standing there.”
An event to remember….- While the fight by blacks for civil rights had been going on for years, it took one middle-aged black woman with tired feet and a strong will to really get the battle going. On the 1st of December 1955, seamstress Mrs. Rosa Parks, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for not standing and letting a white bus rider take her seat, she was found guilty of the crime of disorderly conduct with a fine of fourteen dollars. Parks was arrested for violating a city law that required all blacks to sit in separate rows on the buses. She refused to give up her seat in the middle of the row when a white person wished to sit in her row. Blacks had to sit in the back and the front rows were for whites only. Rosa Parks was physically tired, but no more than you or I after a long day’s work. In fact, under other circumstances, she would have probably given up her seat willingly to a child or elderly person. But this time Parks was tired of the treatment she and other African Americans received every day of their lives, with the racism, segregation, and laws of the time. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, was arrested December 1, 1955. (Note: It was an “established rule” in the American south (at that time) that African-American bus riders had to sit at the back of the bus. African-American riders were also expected to surrender their seat to a white bus rider if it was needed.) Mrs. Parks was not the first African-American to be arrested for this ?crime? but she was the first to be arrested who was well known in the Montgomery African-American community. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery. He and other African-American community leaders felt a protest of some kind was needed. A meeting was called and an overflowing crowd came to the church to hear his words. Dr. King told the crowd that the only way they could fight back would be to boycott the bus company. Then Dr. King and the other African-American community leaders held another meeting to organize future action. They named their organization the Montgomery Improvement Association and elected Dr. King as its president. Four days later, December 5, 1955 the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and lasted for 381 days. Rosa Parks courage catapulted her into world history where she is affectionately refererred to as the ?Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement?. The boycott also brought world prominence to a young Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After the infringing of this segregation law on buses Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) agreed, to aid Rosa Parks in leading the blacks in the Montgomery bus boycott. Blacks walked, rode bicycles, drove or got a ride around the city rather than take the bus. As the boycott continued the white community fought back with terrorism and harassment. The car-pool drivers were arrested for picking up ?hitchhikers?. African-Americans waiting on street corners for a ride were arrested for loitering. Parks and others lost their jobs, and she was harassed and threatened. Whites split on the issues. Some helped the blacks by giving them rides; others attacked the blacks. After twelve months of 50,000 blacks boycotting Montgomery’s bus service, a federal court ordered the desegregation of the cities buses. Then on November 13, 1956 the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the black boycotters, and after that blacks took any seat they wanted on buses. The same year Dr. King’s home was bombed, his wife and their baby daughter escaped without injury. When Dr. King arrived home he found an angry mob waiting. Dr. King told the crowd to go home. ?We must learn to meet hate with love? he said. Then on December 20th federal injunctions were served on the city and bus company officials forcing them to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling. The following morning, December 21, 1956, Dr. King and Rev. Glen Smiley, a white minister, shared the front seat of a public bus. After the boycott Parks said ?For a little more than a year, we stayed off those buses. We did not return to using public transportation until the Supreme Court said there shouldn?t be racial segregation?. and ?I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all?. King went on to lead the Civil Rights Movement on other issues in other cities. In marches throughout the South and in Washington, D.C., blacks and sympathetic whites protested for an end to segregation in all areas of American life.
The blacks had won a major victory in the civil rights movement. Without the initial protest by Parks, which put segregation on buses on the public agenda, blacks might not have achieved the desegregation of buses throughout the USA for years to come.
Still Going…- Rosa Parks did not stop with the Montgomery bus incident! Parks became a leader and member of many movements and groups. Parks was active in many black civil rights movements, including the Montgomery Voters League and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of coloured people). Eventually Parks and her family moved to Detroit and in 1965 she was hired by Congressman John Conyers Jr. to manage his office, as he was also a civil rights leader. Parks was also active in the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), the organization lead for a lengthy period of time by Martin Luther King. More recently the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, was co-founded in February 1987 by Mrs. Rosa Parks and Ms. Elaine Eason Steele, in honor of Raymond Parks (1903 – 1977). It is the living legacy of two individuals who committed their lives to civil and human rights. Rosa went on to write her life, in her book Quiet Strength, (Zondervan Publishing House, 1994).
Parks has met many renowned leaders and has traveled throughout the world receiving honors and awards for her efforts toward racial harmony. She is appreciative and honored by them but exhibits little emotion over whom she has met or what she has done. Her response to being called ?the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement? is modest. ?If people think of me in that way, I just accept the honor and appreciate it?, she says. In Quiet Strength, however, Parks is careful to explain that she did not change things alone. ?Four decades later I am still uncomfortable with the credit given to me for starting the bus boycott. I would like (people) to know I was not the only person involved. I was just one of many who fought for freedom.?. Finally, most recently in August 1994, Parks was attacked in her home by a young man who wanted money from her. Of the event, she writes, ?I pray for this young man and the conditions in our country that have made him this way. Despite the violence and crime in our society, we should not let fear overwhelm us. We must remain strong?. Forty years later, despite some tremendous gains, Parks feels, ?we still have a long way to go in improving the race relations in this country?. Today, Parks continues the work she and her husband, Raymond undertook throughout their lives with youth in the community and throughout the world. In closing Rosa says that February, Black History Month, seemed a relevant time to evaluate youth and their sense of history. But Parks thinks bigger and broader. ?We don’t have enough young people who are concerned and who are exposed to the civil rights movement, and I would like to see more exposure and get their interest?, she says, pausing to reflect, ?but I think it should just be history, period, and not thinking in terms of only Black History Month?. In todays news Parks has lost a recent lawsuit againt rap group OutKast, suing because the group used her name in a popular song which involved ?profanity and vulgarity?. The group said that ?they only wanted to hounor the civil-rights pioneer with the grammy nominated song?. Parks lost the 25,000 dollar claim. Parks who celebrates her 87th birthday this February spends most of her year in Detroit but winters in Los Angeles. Her day is filled with reading mail, ?from students, politicians, and just regular people?, preparing meals, going to church, and visiting people in hospitals. She is still active in fighting racial injustices, now standing up for what she believes in and sharing her message with others. She and other members of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development have a special program called Pathways to Freedom, for young people age 11-18. Children in the program travel across the country tracing the Underground Railroad, visiting the scenes of critical events in the civil rights movement and learning aspects of America’s history.
Locally- On August 2, 1998 a special ceremony of Convocation was held at Mount Saint Vincent University for Rosa Parks. It was the 125th anniversary of the Mount. In 1925, the Nova Scotia legislature awarded the Mount the right to grant its own degrees, making it the only independent Collage in the British Commonwealth. Parks was presented a Doctor of Humane Letters by the Mount. Other popular recipients in the past have been Roberta Bondar and Maxine Tynes.
[Any one who would like some detailed info on his can contact Ruth Jeppesen at RUTH.JEPPESEN(at)MSVA.CA]
Highest achievement- Parks has attained over 20 honorable degrees and the Medal of Freedom, he highest award given to a U.S. citizen. Parks is also the Author of four books, Rosa Parks: My Story, Quiet Strength, Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with todays youth, and I am Rosa Parks.