Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an African-American civil rights activist who was born on the 4th February 1913. She was popularly known as “The first lady of civil rights” and the “mother of the freedom movement”. She became prominent after she refused to move from her seat, in a bus she was riding back home in for a couple of white passengers.
Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama to a carpenter and a teacher. Two years into her life, she moved to her grandparents with her mother and younger brother Sylvester. As a kid, she was taught to take advantage of opportunities regardless of how few they were. She attended the Alabama State Teachers College and after getting married to her husband, Raymond Parks, the duo joined NAACP and worked toward improving the lives of many African-Americans. According to Rosa Parks, they never got the recognition they should have for the work they did. They wanted to end the “second-class citizen” lifestyle that so many people had gotten accustomed to and it had become a matter of challenging the status quo.
Her story’s main character was an unknown seamstress. Upon receiving the orders from James F. Blake, the bus driver to stand up to give space to a white passenger, Rosa Parks refused. When questioned as to why she would not give up her seat, she responded by saying she did not feel the need to. Because of this refusal, she was arrested and asked to pay a fine for violating the law although technically she had done nothing wrong. But this act of insubordination initiated a movement that ultimately wrote off the legal segregation in America and in turn made her an icon of freedom and inspiration.
This incident helped enable legends to come together to work for a similar cause. One such milestone was the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association which was led by Martin Luther King, Jr. This association was formed so that the city-owned bus company could be boycotted which lasted for 382 days. This boycott helped highlight the cause Rosa Parks was hoping to bring to light. A decision by the Supreme Court penned down the Montgomery Ordinance under which Rosa Parks was fined and then outlawed the racial segregation on public transport.
Rosa Parks along with her husband then shifted to Detroit where she served the U.S. Representative, John Conyers. An yearly Rosa Parks Freedom Award was created by the Southern Christian Leadership Council to honor her. She founded Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development as well which sponsors young people to tour the country on supervised buses to learn about history and the Civil Rights Movement. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 1996 as well as a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
She died in 2005, in Detroit, at the age of 92 and her casket was placed in the United States Capitol for two days so the country could pay respect to her. She was the only woman and the second African American in the history of the United States to receive this honor, which is usually reserved only for the Presidents of the country.