Rosa Louise McCauley was born on the 4th of February, 1913 to James McCauley (a carpenter) and Leona Edwards (a teacher). When her parents separated, she and her younger brother Sylvester, moved with their mother to their grandmother’s farm in Pine Level, Alabama. Homeschooled till she was eleven, Rosa moved on to the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes for her secondary education. However, she had to drop out subsequently, as she had to care for her sick grandmother and then her mother.
Rosa Parks: History Created
In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, who was a barber in Montgomery. He was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Rosa Parks took on various jobs from being a domestic worker to a housekeeper to a seamstress to a hospital aide. She even finished her high school education, with her husband’s support in 1933.
In 1943, Rosa Parks joined the NAACP and was elected to be the volunteer secretary to the president of the association, Edgar Nixon.
Throughout her life, Rosa had seen the segregation between the white and the black people – the life of those times was marked by such color oriented discrimination on a daily basis on every level of existence. She had seen it happen in schools and colleges, in the workplace and even in the public transport.
In the public transport buses, the system of segregation was quite unusual. The first four rows of seats were reserved for white people. The rest were for the black people. A movable board was placed in the bus indicating the sections reserved for each color. When the number of white people on the bus increased, the board was moved back, and more seats would become available for the white people. The black people in those seats either had to move to the back of the bus, or stand or leave the bus.
On the 1st of December, 1955, Rosa and four other people were sitting in the beginning seats of the black section of the bus. When more white people climbed in the bus, the driver moved the board back and asked these four to get up. The other three complied, while Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The driver called the police and had her arrested.
This began a nationwide movement that launched the career of none other than Martin Luther King Jr. and a 382 day long Montgomery Bus Boycott. This paved the way for the removal of the racist and discriminatory attitude within the United States of America.
On the 13th of November, 1926, the United States Supreme Court passed a court order which deemed the racial segregation on buses to be unconstitutional. The order reached Montgomery on the 20th of December, 1926 and the bus boycott ended the next day.
Throughout those days of the trial and for many days after that, Rosa Parks and her NAACP associates, including Martin Luther King Jr. suffered many attacks from the segregationists.
But life for Rosa Parks and her husband became very difficult. The both of them lost their jobs. After the trial, they moved to Hampton, Virginia and then to Detroit. Rosa Parks worked as a seamstress. In 1965, she was appointed as a secretary and receptionist in the congressional office of the African American U.S. Representative John Conyers. She worked there till she retired in 1988.
In 1977, Raymond Parks had died of cancer. In 1987, Rosa Parks and Elaine Eason Steele co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
In 1992 Rosa Parks published her autobiography titled ‘Rosa Parks: My Story’ and in 1995 another of her memoirs titled ‘Quiet Strength’ was published. The autobiography details the life of Rosa Parks till her decision to not give up her seat on the bus, while the memoirs talk about the part played by faith in her life.
She received many honors, late in her lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton in 1996.