Rosa Parks changed the course of history and sparked the civil rights movement on Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. That date is now regarded as Rosa Parks Day in recognition of her act of defiance.
Parks was a seamstress on her way home from work when she took a seat in the front of the Black section of the Montgomery bus. The 42-year-old was then ordered by the driver to give up her seat to a white man when the bus became crowded. He was empowered by a statute that allowed the driver “powers of a police officer of the city while in actual charge of any bus for the purposes of carrying out the provisions,” which enforced ‘separate but equal’ treatment.
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Parks refused to move to the back of the bus and was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized a 381-day boycott of the bus company and tin 1956, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against segregation on public transportation in Montgomery, although it would take the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to eliminate segregation on public transportation nationwide.
On the 65th anniversary of her act of protest, the “Mother of the Movement” was remembered fondly.
Rep. James Clyburn honored her “bravery.”
“65 years ago, a brave woman sat down in a front seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama and refused to get up, leading to her arrest. Rosa Parks sparked a movement and today we honor her bravery,” the congressman tweeted.
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Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress, highlighted Parks’ quote about being “pushed around all my life and felt at this moment that I couldn’t take it anymore,” in a tweet.
In a 1995 interview with ABC’s Deborah Roberts, Parks corrected assumptions that she refused to give up her seat because she was physically tired.
“The story has been told over the years that you had gotten off work, that you were tired, that you didn’t want to get up because you were tired,” Roberts began. “But you said that’s not exactly how it went. It had nothing to do with you being physically tired.”
“That’s true. Neither did my feet hurt like people said. The real story is that I did not want to be treated in this manner. I didn’t feel it was the right thing for us to be enduring.
Later in the interview, she reflected more on why she didn’t do things “easier.”
“Well, I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I should have to. I didn’t feel it was helping me as an individual or us as a people for me to stand up because he said get up off the seat.”
President Bill Clinton awarded Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor for a civilian, in 1996. The U.S. Postal Service also issued a “forever” stamp in 2013 on what would’ve been her 100th birthday.
Parks died in 2005 at the age of 92 of natural causes. Upon her death, she became the first woman and the second Black person to lie in honor in the Capitol.
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