Rosa Louise Parks: The Spark that Lit the FireThe woman who earned the title “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”, Rosa Louise Parks is a n enormous inspiration to the African American race (Girl Power Guests 1). Rosa was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913 to James and Leona McCauley (The Life of Rosa Parks 1). Both of Rosa’s parents were born before slavery was banished from the United States. They suffered a difficult childhood, and after emancipation the conditions for blacks were not much better. Rosa’s mother was a schoolteacher and her father was a farmer (Rosa Parks: Pioneer of Civil Rights Interview 1). Rosa’s parents separated in 1915, and her mother moved Rosa and her younger brother to Montgomery, Alabama to live with their grandmother (Working Together into the 21st Century).
The southern states during this period of time were extremely segregated. Confederate Army veterans from Pulaski, Tennessee established the Ku Klux Klan, a secret society in 1866 during reconstruction. Members of the Klan beat and murdered several black people. During election times there would be several occurrences where Klan members would beat, rape, and murder blacks, trying to intimidate the republican representatives. In order to hide their identity, they would where white robes, and white sheets over their faces with only the eyes cut out. They would burn crosses to petrify their victims and their families (Encyclopedia of America 133).
The Ku Klux Klan was very involved in Montgomery, where Rosa and her family were living.Rosa’s mother was a very important role model for her and her brother. Because their mother was a schoolteacher, she home schooled Rosa until the age of eleven (Working Together in to the 21st Century 1). After she was eleven, Rosa attended the all-black school of Montgomery Industrial School for Girls where she cleaned classrooms in order to pay her tuition. After attending the school for girls, she enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School, another black school, until the age of 15.
She was forced to drop out of her High School because her mother was ill and she needed to return home to take care of her (The Life of Rosa Parks 1).When Rosa McCauley was 20 years old in 1932 she met and married a barber by the name of Mr. Raymond Parks.
Rosa began to sew and to take on several seamstress jobs, and also housekeeping jobs (Working Together into the 21st Century 1). Although Raymond received very little proper education, he was very supportive of his wife’s wishes to return to school and receive her High School diploma. Rosa indeed did return to school and earned her diploma in 1932 (The Life of Rosa Parks 1). The Parks family was also very involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
This organization’s priority was to abolish prejudices and discrimination for minorities. Blacks did not have equal opportunities as whites did in housing, education, employment, voting, and transportation (NAACP 1). Rosa was elected secretary of NAACP in 1943 during WW II.
Raymond was a charter member of NAACP who tried to encourage black citizens to become registered voters (Like It Is 51). Montgomery was a very segregated city with restricted “Black Areas.” The black people had their own separate bathrooms, drinking fountains, elevators, and seating arrangements. Rosa chose to take several acts of silent protests to these rules.
She would walk up the stairs instead of riding the elevator, which was labeled, “Blacks Only.” If Rosa were not too tired after work, she would walk home instead of taking the bus (Working Together into the 21st Century). Buses were a major problem not only in Montgomery Alabama, but in the rest of the Southern United States as well.
Black citizens made up 60 percent of the bus population. Buses stopped in every white community and most black people had to walk up to a half mile to get to a bus stop. Black people were forced to pay at the front of the bus, and then walk behind the bus to get on (Witness to America 426). The front four rows of the bus were restricted to white passengers only. Most of these front four rows were usually empty, because most white people could afford cars. The backs of the buses were reserved to Blacks only, and were always very crowded. Even if the front of the bus would be completely empty, a black person from the crowded back of the bus was forbidden to sit in an empty white seat (Working Together into the 21st Century).
In 1943 Rosa was on her way home from Maxwell Field Air Force Base, where she was currently employed. Rosa was physically exhausted from her full day of work, and did not feel she could walk home. She boarded a bus, and paid the driver her fee.
He said to her, “Go and get in through the back door.” Rosa calmly told him that she was already on the bus and did not want to go around in order to get back inside. The driver violently took Rosa by the arm, and escorted her off the bus.
Rosa was forced to wait at the bus stop for another bus to take her home (Like It Is 49).Twelve years after Rosa was kicked off the bus, she would make history. On December 1, 1955 Rosa went to Court Square where she usually got on a bus to go home after work (Autobiography of a People 369). At the time she was working as a seamstress for the Montgomery Fair department store, and on this particular day she was feeling very weak and ill (Heroes & Icons). When Rosa boarded the bus she was startled to discover that the driver of the bus was the exact driver that removed her from the bus twelve years earlier. Rosa paid her fee and took a seat in the first row of the black section. The bus made a couple of stops where some white people boarded.
The white section was filled, and there was a white man that remained standing. The bus driver looked back and saw that the white man was standing, and demanded that Rosa give up her seat. Rosa was not giving in this time; she was 42 years old and tired of the discrimination. He angrily told her, “Well, I’m going to have you arrested.” Rosa said, “You may do that.
” Outside, Rosa and the bus driver, James Blake, waited for the police (Autobiography of a People). The word of Rosa’s arrest spread very quickly. The night after the arrest fifty leaders of the black community including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. met to discuss the issues of Rosa’s situation. They met at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
was a minister. Dr. King told these people that the only way the black community could fight back was if they boycotted the bus company (Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott). These fifty leaders organized the boycott and the purpose was to change the segregation laws of bus transportation.The boycott began on December 5, 1955, the day of Rosa’s court case.
The following Monday Rosa was found guilty of disorderly conduct, and she was fined. This was when the black community really took a stand and organized the Montgomery Improvement Association. The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 381 days. During these 381 days, blacks chose to walk instead of riding the bus or arranged carpools in order to get to and from wherever they need to go (The Montgomery Bus Boycott). Some of the few black people who could afford cars were arrested for picking up hitchhikers.
Black people were also arrested were also arrested for loitering while standing on street corners waiting for rides (Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott). Because blacks were 60 percent of the bus population, during these 381 days the bus companies lost thousands of dollars (Working Together into the 21st Century).Rosa Parks was a miraculous woman who “sat down” to stand up for what she believed in. She has been an inspiration and an influence for the African American race and culture.
She earned the name “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Rosa is also known as the “spark that lit the fire.” There were several protests and riots that took place after December 1, 1943. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was unknown until he spoke out after the Rosa Parks bus incident.