ROSA PARKS, PIONEER OF DESEGREGATION, CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, HAS DIED, AGED 92
On 1 December 1955, during a time of widespread institutional racial segregation, African-American seamstress Rosa Parks refused to yield her seat at the front of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger. This act of defiance helped to bring about a nationwide non-violent protest movement against segregation and in favor of civil rights. Ms. Parks died Monday at her home in Detroit, from natural causes, at the age of 92.
Rosa Parks became a household name when authorities arrested and jailed her for refusing to give up her seat on the segregated bus. Little more than one year after her taking a stand for civil rights, she sat at the front of a Montgomery bus when the Supreme Court's ruling declaring the city's transit segregation unconstitutional, took effect.
In 1999, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for an act of civil disobedience which served to protect and strengthen the meaning of the rights inherent in the US Constitution. Her action led to a general boycott of the city's bus system by African Americans, a boycott which lasted 381 days and ended only when the Supreme Court struck down Montgomery's transit segregation law.
"Her legacy was her quiet dignity and instinctive rage against injustice," Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) has told the Times. "What she determined on the spot was that her dignity would not allow her to be treated unjustly." Reports about Rosa Parks' early years note she recalls the kindness of a "Yankee soldier" who called her cute and treated her like "just another little girl, not a black little girl", but she also recalls her grandfather's vigilance, keeping a gun to protect the family from brutal Klan raids in the 1920s.
She reports in her own autobiography having had a sense from early on in life of what was fair and feeling a natural indignation at signs of oppression or injustice, whether in the form of unashamed racist slurs, the bullying of her brother, or eventually the crude injustice of Montgomery's segregation.
The situation on Montgomery's buses was not only unjust, it was absurd and led to abuses and further mistreatment. For instance, where buses had two doors, drivers would often require African-American passengers to board by the front, pay their fare, then disembark and re-enter by the rear doors. Apparently it was not uncommon for the doors to be closed and the bus pull away while the paying passenger was left standing at the curb.
Throughout the remainder of the 1950s and the 1960s, leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led nonviolent protest marches and rallies against laws like Montgomery's, thanks in part to the unique and ongoing inspiration given to people from all walks of life by Rosa Parks and her very American refusal to give in to injustice. [For more: KTLA]