Profile in Black History:
Rosa Parks' Legacy Lives On
By Tia Camphor
There are some wonderful people who have made things possible for us to do what we choose in our life. Rosa Parks was one of the beautiful people that made us become more independent and free-spirited. She has greatly impacted our society by her actions.
Rosa Parks was born as Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Ala., on Feb. 4, 1913, to James McCauley and Leona Edwards, respectively a carpenter and a teacher, and was of African-American, Cherokee-Creek and Scots-Irish ancestry. She grew up on a farm with her maternal grandparents, mother, and younger brother Sylvester, and began her lifelong membership in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was homeschooled by her mother until age 11. She attended the Industrial School for Girls. She set up a laboratory at the Alabama State Teacher's College, but then had to drop out to care for her sick grandmother and mother.
Being in the South was not the best for Parks. She witnessed the Ku Klux Klan in her neighborhood at such a young age. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks, who was a member of the NAACP. After marrying, she finished high school in 1933 with the aid of her husband. During that time, only 7 percent of African Americans earned a high school diploma.
In 1943, she became active in the local Civil Rights Movement and joined the NAACP. She also became a volunteer secretary to Edgar Nixon, president of the local NAACP branch.
After a tiring day at work at the Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the "colored" section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers.
Initially, Parks had not noticed that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theatre, and several white passengers boarded. The bus driver told her to give up her seat, yet she remained seated.
Parks was arrested by a white police officer and was charged with a violation of chapter 6 section 11 policy. She continued to fight her battle, because she demanded that the blacks would be treated equally. After her arrest, Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement but suffered hardships as a result. She lost her job at the department store, and her husband quit his job after his boss forbade him from talking about his wife or the legal case.
Parks traveled and spoke extensively. In 1957, Raymond and Rosa Parks left Montgomery for Hampton, Va., mostly because she was unable to find work, but also because of disagreements with King and other leaders of Montgomery's struggling Civil Rights Movement. In Hampton, she found a job as a hostess in an inn at the all-black Hampton Institute. Later that year, after the urging of her brother and sister-in-law, Sylvester & Daisy McCauley, Rosa Parks, her husband Raymond, and her mother moved to Detroit.
Parks published a book in 1992 titled Rosa Parks: My Story, which was aimed at young readers. She also published her memoir, Quiet Strength. A scholarship fund for college students bears her name.
The civil rights pioneer died at the age of 92 on Oct. 24, 2005 from progressive dementia. Parks made history even in death as the first woman and only the 30th American to lie in honor in the U. S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington. She was a woman of integrity, stood up for what she believed in and encouraged many to follow suit.