History

Who was Rosa Parks?

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Rosa Parks lived from 1913-2005, and is often called "the mother of the Civil Rights Movement."

The Civil Rights Movement was a major effort that took place about 50-60 years ago (1950s and 1960s) and used peaceful methods to help end unfair treatment of people based on their skin color.

At that time, Americans with lighter skin, particularly in the South, were given privileges and opportunities that people with darker skin didn't have. This was known as "racial segregation." It wasn't a fair way to treat people, and it wasn't right.

What Mrs. Parks came to be best known for happened on December 1st, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, even though the city's rules of racial segregation said she had to. She was arrested and fined for violating these rules, which upset a lot of people who knew it wasn't right to have these rules, and that it also wasn't right to arrest and fine Mrs. Parks for taking a stand against them!

Four days later, Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a boycott of the buses. The boycott lasted for over a year (382 days), which really showed people that African American citizens were serious about fixing the unfair way they were being treated!

The boycott, triggered by Mrs. Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat, is often seen as the first moment of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Exploration

One of the most distinct aspects of Mrs. Parks' protest on the bus, as well as many of the protests of the Civil Rights Movement, was that it was nonviolent. Why do you think that a nonviolent protest can make a better statement than a violent one? Have a grown-up help you think of some other peaceful ways of making a point or solving a problem, and talk about some of the ways you can apply them to your own life!

Further Information

For her courage and bravery, Mrs. Parks not only became a key figure in American history, but also was the recipient of many awards and honors. In 2005, Mrs. Parks passed away when she was 92 years old. So that people could pay their respects, her casket was displayed in the U.S. Capitol, a distinction usually given only to Presidents. She was the first woman and second African American in history to receive this honor!

Some of Mrs. Parks' honors and awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1996) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1999). When her husband Raymond Parks passed away in 1977, Mrs. Parks also founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, an organization which provides programs to teenagers that teach them the history of the U.S. and the Civil Rights Movement as they tour the country.