February 14, 2012

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks has been nationally recognized as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement.” Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, she was the first of two children, born to James and Leona Edwards McCauley. Educated in rural schools until age 11, Parks then attended a private school, Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, also known as Miss White’s School.

Upon completion, she then attended Alabama State Teacher’s College High School. Unfortunately due to her grandmother’s illness and death, and then her mother’s illness, Parks did not receive her high school diploma until 1934. By this time she was married to Raymond Parks, a self-educated man who supported and encouraged Rosa’s formal education. They married in 1932 on December 18.

Parks, along with her husband, worked within many of the NAACP’s programs. While there, she served as secretary and later a youth leader at a local branch. She also worked as a seamstress at Montgomery Fair department store. One day on December 1, 1955, after working her usual long day, she boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus and sat in an empty seat in the first row of the “colored” section. The bus driver John F. Blake, who in 1943 had shooed Parks off his bus into the rain for sitting in a white person’s seat momentarily to pick up her dropped purse, noticed that the bus was filling with white passengers and 2-3 white men were now standing. Following the usual practice, Blake moved the “colored” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black passengers, one being Parks, move to the back of the bus. Rosa’s courageous and defiant refusal led to her arrest, and ignited a city-wide bus boycott that lasted 381 days. In addition to gaining the support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it also sparked other forms of protests such as sit-ins, eat-ins, and even swim-ins.

While, Parks was integral to various boycotts and protests within Montgomery, in 1957 she moved to Detroit Michigan. While there, she continued to strive and positively impact her community. In 1964, she became a deaconess in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), and from 1965-1988 she worked for Congressman John Conyers, First Congressional District of Michigan. One year prior to leaving her position however, Mrs. Parks along with Ms. Elaine Eason Steele co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in honor of her husband Raymond (1903-1977). It was founded on the belief that the energy of young people have a real force for change, and they should be encouraged to reach their highest potential.

At the time of the founding, Mrs. Parks was 74, and while most people would be looking to wind down, she was just getting started. Over the next two decades, she received over forty-three honorary doctorate degrees, including one from Soka University, in Tokyo, Japan. She also received numerous plaques, certificates, and awards including the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a citizen can receive. It was  given to her by President Bill Clinton in 1996. In 1997, by Published Act no.28, it was designated that the first Monday following February 4, would be Mrs. Rosa Parks’ Day in the state of Michigan. She was the first living person to be honored with such a holiday.
Finally, on May 3, 1999 after unanimously passing by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, President Clinton awarded her with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

At the time, Ms. Parks was one of only 250 people to receive such honors; a rather impressive feat given the first recipient was George Washington. With these many accomplishments, along with many others, it is not surprising she was voted by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most Influential people of the 20th century.

After a long and courageous life, Mrs. Parks died on October 24, 2005 at the age of 92.
-V Jones


All contributions and bequests are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by federal and state law. The Women’s Museum of California is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable corporation. Tax ID is 95-3893212.

This Page is Coming Soon

We are in the process of re-designing our website.
Thank you for your patience.