Honoring Activist Rosa Parks
By: Ellen Gutoske
Interfaith Engagement Intern
Rosa Parks is often credited as a tired old woman who didn’t want to give up her seat to a white man on a bus one Thursday afternoon in Montgomery Alabama. What is often left out of the story is all of the planning and activism that Rosa Parks that lead up to that orchestrated event. Rosa Parks was calculated and strategic in her protest starting the Montgomery Boycott. While it is rather idyllic to think Parks simply decided on that day that she was too exhausted to give up her seat, this discredits all the organizing she and other activists did.
Rosa Parks was born in 1913 in Tuskegee Alabama. She spent much of her childhood with her family and her parents, who were former slaves. Her upbringing instilled a sense of racial justice and a desire for equality as she experienced discrimination and went to segregated schools. She married at 19 and joined the NAACP soon after. She worked closely with racial justice activists throughout her career. After refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, she was arrested and imprisoned. She is not only credited with not being the start and face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott but also starting the Civil Rights Movement.
Refusing to give up your seat for a white person had been done before Rosa Parks refused to stand. What made December 1st, 1955 different that previous protests was the previous planning that went into it, and what was planned to follow after. Parks was involved in this protest due to her qualifications that made her an ideal face for this defiant act. She had completed high school, a very reputable education level at the time. She was also heavily involved in the NAACP serving as President Edgar Nixon’s secretary. Additionally, Parks was a member of the Voters League and had a keen interest in race relations and other cases where black riders refused to give up their seats. Due to coalitions that were established between Rosa Parks, President Edgar Nixon, the NAACP, and President Jo Ann Robinson and the Women’s Political Council Montgomery citizens were able to immediately mobilize in enacting the Montgomery Bus Boycott the following Monday after her arrest. Rosa Parks knew that by refusing to stand she would be arrested and would suffer all consequences that would follow in an unjust judicial system. In this peaceful act of resistance Parks showed how powerful protest can be in starting a movement.
I wrote this wanting to not only to honor the act of resistance but to also honor Parks’ intelligence and organizing skills as an activist. Her work was thought through and planned. She broke barriers as a black female fighting for equality in segregated Montgomery Alabama. She worked to better the lives of all people, which is evident by her work with the Montgomery bus and her career after. She paved the way for one of the greatest movements of power for equality and all people across America continue to benefit from the work she did. As we remember Black figures from American history throughout Black History Month, please remember in the words of Rosa Parks, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
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