Remembering Rosa Parks on anniversary of Montgomery Bus Boycott

(Courtesy: Toby Carter/WIAT)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Tuesday marks an important milestone in civil rights history — remembering the Montgomery bus boycott.

Celebrities, activists and politicians will commemorate the boycott.

There’s a National Bar Association Tour, which includes a key note speech by democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

But the bus boycott would have never happened without the actions of Rosa Parks.

The daughter of Leona and James McCauley, Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913.

She spent her formative years outside Montgomery, in Pine Level, Alabama.

Rosa made it as far as the 11th grade before dropping out help care for her ailing mother and grandmother. She would eventually receive her high school degree at the age of 19, at the urging of her new husband, Raymond parks.

While her days were spent working as a seamstress, she spent her free time becoming involved in civil rights issues and joined the NAACP.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa left her job at a department store and boarded a public bus to head home. She sat in a section reserved for “colored” passengers. When the bus began to fill up, the driver told Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger. She refused and was subsequently arrested.

Rosa’s actions sparked an idea in the African American community- boycott the buses. The news spread like wildfire, and the plummeting ridership led to idle buses, and financial hardship for the city’s transit system.

In 1956, Jim Crow laws were declared unconstitutional.  The city of Montgomery had no choice but to end segregation on public buses.

The 381-day boycott ended in success on December 20, 1956.

However, that success was fleeting for Rosa Parks. Both she and her husband lost their jobs and were unable to find work in Montgomery.

They moved to Detroit, Michigan, in hopes of rebuilding their lives.

Rosa found work as a secretary for U.S. Representative John Conyers.

After her husband died, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. She then went on to become an author, publishing two books that recount her life and the role that faith played in it.

On October 24, 2005, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks died in her Detroit home, at the age of 92.

Even in death, Rosa Parks’ legacy remained strong. Flags were flown at half-staff, and more than 50,000 people made their way to the Capitol rotunda, where she lay in state.

A simple act of defiance becomes a moment of courage, as the country remembers Rosa Parks, as “the mother of the freedom movement.”

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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