Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist in Alabama, USA. She experienced racial discrimination early in her life - She watched as her grandfather, who was a former slave and advocate for racial equality, stood in front of their house with a shotgun as Klu Klux Klan members marched past.
During her years in education, she attended segregated schools which often lacked basic supplies. After leaving school early, to take care of her sick mother and grandmother, she got a job at a shirt factory. At age 19, Rosa married Raymond Parks, an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With his help, she graduated high school, and became involved in civil rights issues.
During this time, the Montgomery City Code required that all buses be segregated - Meaning that the bus drivers were required to provide separate seating for white and black passengers. When black passengers wanted to get on the bus, they had to get on at the front to pay the fare, then get off and re-board the bus at the back. If there were not enough seats for those sitting in the front, then the black passengers were asked to give up their seat.
On December 1st 1955, Rosa boarded the bus after a day of hard work, and took a seat in the first of one of the rows designation for 'coloured' passengers. Interestingly, the law gave drivers the authority to assign seats however it didn't give them authority to demand a passenger give up their seat. But, the Montgomery bus drivers had adopted their own custom or asking passengers to give up their seats to white passengers. If the black passenger protested, the driver was able to refuse service or call the police.
As the bus carrying Rosa started to fill up, the driver noticed that there were some white passengers standing in the aisle. He asked 4 of the black passengers to give up their seats - 3 of them complied, yet Rosa refused. The driver asked why she wouldn't get up, and she replied with "I don't think I should have to." Rosa was then arrested.
This incident was the catalyst for nationwide efforts to end segregation, and just days after her arrest the Montgomery Bus Boycott came into action, with African-Americans across the country finding alternative methods of transport. With the transit company suffering huge financial losses, they had no choice but to end segregation on public buses.
Rosa suffered hardships after her arrest, with herself and her husband losing their jobs. They moved to Detroit where she became a receptionist and secretary for U.S Representative John Conyer's congressional office, and she also served on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1987, Rosa founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. This organisation introduces young people to civil rights and Underground Railroad sites throughout the country, with their 'Pathways to Freedom' bus tours.
"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."
Rosa's story is a powerful one, about courage and determination. She was tired of being treated like a third-class citizen, and she didn't stand up and do something about it - She sat. She sat on that bus, with strength, demanding to be seen and heard.
Let us know what you think of Rosa's story in the comments below!
Stay tuned for the stories of 9 more incredible women, and at the end of this week we'll be opening the votes to find out who's story you find the most inspiring.
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