Rosa Parks (1913-2005) [Children’s Edition]

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey, Montgomery, Alabama, February 22, 1956
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted by Deputy Sheriff D.H. Lackey, Montgomery, Alabama, February 22, 1956
Fair use image

This entry is for juvenile audiences. To see the full version of this entry, click here.

Who was Rosa Parks and what happened because of her?
Rosa Parks was born February 4, 1913, to Leona and James McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her mother was a teacher, her father a carpenter. Rosa was homeschooled until she was eleven when she and the family moved to Montgomery, Alabama. She then attended Montgomery Industrial School for Girls and Alabama State Teachers College High School before dropping out to help ill family members. In 1931, Parks married barber-activist Raymond Parks and joined the Montgomery National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as youth director and secretary. Parks knew that NAACP lawyers successfully argued the Brown vs. Board of Education case in 1954. She and many African Americans agreed with the decision because they also disagreed with racial segregation or the legal and customary separation of people by race.

Why it is she is important to know about:
On December 1, 1955, after work as a seamstress at the Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus. Bus driver James Blake ordered Parks and other Black passengers to surrender their seats because the “whites only” section was full. Parks refused. That was illegal, so she was arrested for violating the segregation law and fined $14. Once others learned this, Black residents protested, starting The Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Briefly describe the details of the event and the life of the person:
After her arrest, the Montgomery NAACP and the Women’s Political Council (WPC) met and organized a boycott, a campaign to stop riding Montgomery’s segregated buses. They printed flyers, phoned neighbors, started carpools and urged Black folk to walk, not ride buses. Black Montgomery residents backed the boycott which lasted for 381 days. Martin Luther King Jr. emerged as the leader of the Boycott. In December 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation giving the protesters a victory.

Describe their lasting impact on society:
Rosa Parks who resisted bus segregation in Montgomery, showed that when people unite, they can end unjust laws. The Montgomery Bus Boycott made Parks world famous. Later she moved to Michigan and in 1987 she started the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, teaching students Civil Rights Movement history and helping them achieve success. Rosa Parks earned 40 honorary degrees and the Congressional Gold Medal. Michigan celebrates February 4th as Rosa Parks Day. On October 5, 2005, Parks became the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda and in 2013 the first African American woman whose statue is in the Capitol Building’s Statuary Hall.

What have we learned from this event and person?
Rosa Parks showed that one person can make a difference, especially when they are part of a movement larger than themselves. Her actions inspired people to come together to protest injustice and ensure that democratic rights were preserved and protected.

For additional information, go to BlackPast.org.