Joe Hendren

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thank you Rosa Parks

One December evening in 1955 one black woman in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus (Hat tip NRT). This simple action led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the start of the civil rights movement in the United States.

Rosa Parks died on Monday night (US time) aged 92.

Thanks to the work of Rosa and her legal team, Alabama's segregation laws were overturned by the Supreme Court. The bus boycott created a stage for a local preacher, Martin Luther King, who would later assemble the 'March on Washington' and demonstrate public support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a legal guarantee of equal rights to Americans of all races.

Despite the inspiration she provided to others, Rosa suffered personal hardship in the immediate aftermath of her arrest. She was found guilty of violating the segregation laws and fined $14. She lost her job, and her husband quit his job after his boss ordered that no mention be made of "Rosa" or the legal case. Concerned for the safety of supporters as well as themselves, following a number of death threats, the Parks moved to Detroit in 1957, where Rosa worked as an aide in a Democratic congressman's office.

"Rosa was a true giant of the civil rights movement," said U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), in whose office Parks worked for more than 20 years. "There are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of the nation, and Rosa Parks is one of those individuals."

Thank you Rosa for demonstrating the power of non-violent direct action. Thank you for standing up against injustice and making the world a better place for us all.

More at No Right Turn.

Update: Bayprairie at OurWord has complied some interesting background to the bus boycott. While Rosa was 'the spark that lit the fire', Bayprairie points out that the movement to desegregate the buses in Montgomery began earlier, largely instigated by Jo Ann Robinson, a black college professor.

PS: You may have to log in to see the Washington Post report. (its free)

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