Rosa Louise Parks

(1913- 2006)

Civil rights leader, Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. She attended Alabama State College, worked as a seamstress and housekeeper, and was active in the Montgomery Voters League and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) Youth Council.

In 1943 she was elected secretary of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP. In a celebrated incident in 1955 she was arrested for violating segregation laws when she sat at the front of the bus and refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. This resulted in a boycott of the bus system by blacks, with Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the movement. In spite of harassment the boycott continued, and in 1956 segregated seating was challenged in a federal lawsuit.

Within a few months bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional, and the buses were officially desegregated in December 1956. Parks, who had lost her job because of the boycott, moved to Detroit, Michigan, the following year, and again took in sewing. She also worked as a fundraiser for the NAACP. In 1965 she was hired by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., also a civil rights leader, to manage his Detroit office. She remained active in the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1987 she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, offering guidance to young blacks. She won the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal (1970) and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award (1980), as well as an honorary degree from Shaw College.

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