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Rosa Parks was an American civil rights activist whose refusal to give up her seat on a public bus precipitated the —56 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, which became the spark that ignited the civil rights movement in the United States. The boycott also helped give rise to the American civil rights movement.
Rosa Parks was not the first Black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus, though her story attracted the most attention nationwide. Nine months before Parks, year-old Claudette Colvin had refused to give up her bus seat, as had dozens of other Black women throughout the history of segregated public transit.
In Rosa Parks published Rosa Parks: My Storyan autobiography written with Jim Haskins that described her role in the American civil rights movementbeyond her refusal to give up her seat on a segregated public bus to white passengers.
When she was two years old, shortly after the birth of her younger brother, Sylvester, her parents chose to separate.
For much of her childhood, Rosa was educated at home by her mother, who also worked as a teacher at a nearby school. Rosa helped with chores on the farm and learned to cook and sew. Farm life, though, was less than idyllic. On nights thought to be especially dangerous, the children would have to go to bed with their clothes on so that they would be ready if the family needed to escape. Sometimes Rosa would choose to stay awake and keep watch with her grandfather.
Rosa and her family experienced racism in less violent ways, too. When Rosa entered school in Pine Level, she had to attend a segregated establishment where one teacher was put in charge of about 50 or 60 schoolchildren. Though white children in the area were bused to their schools, Black children had to walk.
Public transportation, drinking fountains, restaurants, and schools were all segregated under Jim Crow laws. At age 11 Rosa entered the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, where Black girls were taught regular school subjects alongside domestic skills.
At age 16, however, she was forced to leave school because of an illness in the family, and she began cleaning the houses of white people. Inat age 19, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber and a civil rights activist, who encouraged her to return to high school and earn a diploma.
She later made a living as a seamstress.
On December 1,Parks was riding a crowded Montgomery city bus when the driver, upon noticing that there were white passengers standing in the aisle, asked Parks and other Black passengers to surrender their seats and stand. Three of the passengers left their seats, but Parks refused. Both Parks and Nixon knew that they were opening themselves to harassment and death threats, but they also knew that the case had the potential to spark national outrage. African Americans constituted some 70 percent of the ridership, and the absence of their bus fares cut deeply into revenue.
The boycott lasted days, and even people outside Montgomery embraced the cause: protests of segregated restaurants, pools, and other public facilities took place all over the United States. On November 13,the U. But she was an accomplished activist by the time of her arrest, having worked with the NAACP on other civil rights cases, such as that of the Scottsboro Boysnine Black youths falsely accused of sexually assaulting two white women.
I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. However, as secretary of the local NAACP, and with the Montgomery Improvement Association behind her, Parks had access to resources and publicity that those other women had not had. It was her case that forced the city of Montgomery to desegregate city buses permanently. In Parks moved with her husband and mother to Detroit, where from to she worked on the staff of Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
In she cofounded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development to provide career training for young people and offer teenagers the opportunity to learn about the history of the civil rights movement. She saw that the United States was still failing to respect and protect the lives of Black Americans.
Martin Luther King, Jr. It pains me that there is still a lot of Klan activity and racism. After Parks died inher body lay in state in the rotunda of the U. Capitolan honour reserved for private citizens who performed a great service for their country. For two days mourners visited her casket and gave thanks for her dedication to civil rights. Parks was the first woman and only the second Black person to receive the distinction. Rosa Parks. Additional Info. Print Cite verified Cite. While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies.
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Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. See all media. Born: February 4, Tuskegee Alabama Show more Died: October 24, Detroit Michigan Show more Role In: American civil rights movement Montgomery bus boycott Show more. Top Questions. Was Rosa Parks the first Black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus? Full Article. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now.
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama, December 1, Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. American civil rights movement: Montgomery bus boycott to the Voting Rights Act. After boycott supporters chose Baptist minister Martin Luther….
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