October 24, 2005:
On this day, Rosa Parks, the woman known as the “mother of the civil rights movement,” died. Parks turned the course of American history by refusing in 1955 to give up her seat on a bus for a white man.
Rosa Parks , née Rosa Louise McCauley, (born February 4, 1913, Tuskegee, Alabama, U.S.—died October 24, 2005, Detroit, Michigan), African American civil rights activist whose refusal to relinquish her seat on a public bus to a white man precipitated the 1955–56 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, which is recognized as the spark that ignited the U.S. civil rights movement.
In 1932 she married Raymond Parks, who encouraged her to return to high school and earn a diploma. She later made her living as a seamstress. In 1943 Parks became a member of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she served as its secretary until 1956. On December 1, 1955, she was arrested for refusing to give her bus seat to a white man, a violation of the city’s racial segregation ordinances. Under the aegis of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the leadership of the young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Martin Luther King, Jr., a boycott of the municipal bus company was begun on December 5. (African Americans constituted some 70 percent of the ridership.) On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision declaring Montgomery’s segregated seating unconstitutional, and the court order was served on December 20; the boycott ended the following day. For her role in igniting the successful campaign, which brought King to national prominence, Parks became known as the “mother of the civil rights movement.”
Rosa died at the age of 92. She was the first woman to ever lie in state at the US Rotunda.