“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people,” said Rosa Parks on the occasion of her 77th birthday. And so she was.
Parks, known as “the mother of the civil rights movement,” walked into history on December 1, 1955 when she refused to give up her seat for a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Parks was arrested for her defiance, and she agreed to challenge the segregation order in court. After this tactic failed, Parks and others organized the Montgomery bus boycott: “For a little more than a year, we stayed off those busses. We did not return to using public transportation until the Supreme Court said there shouldn’t be racial segregation.”
Parks and others lost their jobs, and she was harassed and threatened. The boycott held, and an important corner was turned in the movement. Parks and her family eventually moved to Detroit, where she worked for many years for Congressman John Conyers. She founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to offer guidance to young African Americans in preparation for leadership and careers. Parks was the recipient of the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Her statue is in the National Statuary Hall.