Rosa Parks was a civil rights pioneer best known for her refusal to give up her seat on an Alabama bus for a white man in 1955, which helped to kickstart the civil rights movement. She was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913. (Brittain 2). Ironically, it has been confirmed that her refusal to give up her bus seat was not her first fight with bus driver James Blake. The aim of this paper is to investigate the bus saga and the significance of Park’s actions in transforming the social structures of society as they are viewed today. It is imperative to explore Rosa’s life and how it played a key role in enabling her to develop her strict and transformative principles. Her mother was a teacher who valued education and that made Rosa to focus on it as well. After her marriage to Raymond Parks who was a self-educated man, they both worked as members of the Montgomery’s large African American community where they became respected members (Brittain 9). It was at this time that she started developing an interest in human rights movements as she coexisted with white people in a city that was largely governed by Jim Crow rules. She was frustrated with the laws and learned that blacks were supposed to attend inferior schools, drink specified water fountains and could only use books from the black library. Despite Raymond’s earlier concerns on her safety as pertains her initiatives to challenge the dogma, she was resilient. She became the chapter secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and worked closely with Edgar Daniel who was the chapter president (Brittain 11). It was clear from the early explorations of her life that Rosa was frustrated with the Jim Crow laws and the bus incident demonstrated her determination to change the status quo.
The act to refuse giving up her seat despite the driver’s instructions for her to comply underlined her efforts to challenge the discriminative policies that existed. The incident occurred on December 1, 1955 when she was commuting home after a tiring day at the Montgomery Fair department store. It was common that the black residents would avoid the municipal buses because they thought that the Negros-back-in policy was quite demeaning for them. At some point, a white man lacked a seat in the section designated for blacks and the bus driver instructed the riders occupying the four seats in the first row of the colored section to offer their seats. While the three others obeyed, Rosa declined. She clarified in her autobiography that even though people thought that she was physically tired to give up her seat she insisted that she was tired of giving in every time. She was apprehended and placed in custody and on December 5, she was found guilty of violating the segregation laws (Gavins and Gavins 12). The lawsuit initiated a series of dramatic events in Montgomery as the appeals and related lawsuits angered the white population and caused violence. The case went up to the US Supreme Court as the drama gained national and international press coverage.
The relevance of Rosa’s action is that it initiated the efforts to overcome the discrimination of blacks. The segregation idea was a written law considering that the front of the bus was reserved for the white citizens while the back seats were meant for the black citizens. It was also a custom that the bus drivers could authorize a black person to give up their seat for the sake of the white travelers. Rosa was found guilty of violating the segregation laws and was fined $10 and further $4 in court costs but it initiated the efforts to change the oppressive rules. The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed to manage a boycott of the Montgomery buses (Gavins and Gavins 23). The chapter president had hoped for years that he would find a righteous yet courageous person to become a plaintiff in the case and he was present when Rosa was released on bail. Nixon and other ministers took advantage of the momentum at the time and elected Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr to be president of the MIA at 26 years. Even though Nixon’s and King’s houses were bombed, the violence did not deter the leaders and boycotters as they were destined to realize the freedom from discrimination.
Rosa then became known as the mother of civil rights movements after she lost her job and experienced harassment the whole of that year as her case was ongoing. Her actions inspired the present generation because the society learned that one person can make a difference. While people believe that they are powerless, Rosa enabled the society to understand that it should never be the case. She also compelled people to act in their convictions so that when they perceive a wrong, they ought to take initiatives to challenge what is odd and oppressive.
Brittain, Victoria. “The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks.” Race & Class, 2014, doi:10.1177/0306396813509200.
Gavins, Raymond, and Raymond Gavins. “Montgomery Bus Boycott.” The Cambridge Guide to African American History, 2016, doi:10.1017/cbo9781316216453.208.