Rosa Parks, born on 4 February 1913 in Alabama, was best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and her activism in the civil rights movement. Rosa’s mother was a teacher and the family saw the importance of education. Unfortunately, Rosa had to leave school at the young age of 16 in order to care for her grandmother and, shortly afterwards, her mother.
She married her husband Raymond Parks in 1932. He was very supportive of Rosa and she was able to complete her education by 1933. This was remarkable because at the time less than 7% of African Americans had a high school diploma. Rosa and her husband had always worked very hard, holding down many jobs at a time. She worked in many areas, ranging from a hospital aide to a domestic worker to a seamstress.
During this period of time, Rosa was living in a society governed by the Jim Crow laws. These laws enforced racial segregation in the southern united states and were enforced until 1965! In particular, these laws stipulated that public transport such as buses were to be segregated. This meant that there were designated seats for white and black people. In addition to this, if all of the seats designated for white people were full, the black citizens had to give up their seats, by law!
Not many people are aware that Rosa Parks had altercations with James Blake, the bus driver, before. There was a further rule that black citizens had to get on the bus at the back door. In 1943, she refused to get on the bus from the back and insisted on boarding from the front. He refused to allow this, so instead of conforming she just didn’t get on. She waited for the next one. This was the beginning of a bigger story to come…
On 1 December 1955, after a long day at work, Rosa boarded James Blake’s bus. Since the altercation in 1943, she had vowed to never use his bus again. However, she was so tired she didn’t notice who was driving and just wanted to go home. During the journey, the bus became busier and busier until one white citizen did not have access to a seat. Blake told the four black passengers to give up their seat. Three complied, one didn’t. This was Rosa. She was subsequently arrested, and this sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted 13 months.