Rosa ParksCredit: Wisconsin Historical ImagesCredit: Wisconsin Historical Images

Ever heard the saying, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything?” Well, make no mistake, Rosa Parks stood so tall for her rights, while seated, that the racial segregation laws that she fought against came crumbling down. The stand that Rosa Parks took caused her to be dubbed, “The first lady of civil rights.” What an honor, here is her story…

Rosa Parks was an active member of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) wherein she held the position of an elected volunteer secretary; she was also an active participant in the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, it is evident that Rosa Parks was already involved in the ideology of what African-Americans could accomplish, as being against segregation, if determined. On Thursday December 1st, 1955 Rosa Parks made these ideologies a reality.

42-year-old Rosa Parks was already seated on the bus December 1, 1955 in Montgomery when the seats were beginning to fill up rapidly. Looking ahead Rosa Parks could see that the first four rows of the bus reserved for white people were filled. The rule was, if no seats were available, black people had to stand or leave the bus, this reality was increasingly becoming true for Rosa Parks.

When the bus arrived at the Empire Theatre stop, many white people boarded the bus. It became evident to the bus driver that there were no more seats available for the whites to be seated. Consequently, the bus driver demanded that four black riders give up their seat for the new arriving whites. Three of the black passengers abandoned their seats but Rosa Parks refused to budge.

Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger caused her to be arrested and tried on charges of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. She was later found guilty of this offence and was fined $14.

Rosa Parks’ resistance to racial segregation and her resulting arrest sparked what is known in history as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. On the day of Rosa Park’s trial, a total of 35,000 pamphlets were handed out and the date of December 5th was the chosen day for the boycott.

The day of the boycott had arrived and it rained; however, the weather did not hamper the boycott and everything went according as planned. Some of the black residents of Montgomery carpooled, others commuted through black operated cabs that charged similar fares to the bus system (10 cents), and the latter 40,000 walked with some covering a distance as far as 20 miles. This boycott lasted a total of 381 days putting a big dent in the transit revenues of Montgomery, as the bulk of the ridership was black residents.

As a result of the boycott and a few challenges brought to the court, bus segregation was ruled as unconstitutional on June 5th, 1956 and laws surrounding segregation on public transit was struck down.

Rosa Parks serves as a prime example of how one person’s stand against inequality, in any form, can be a catalyst for a movement of much needed change.