Friday marks 62 years since Rosa Louise McCauley Parks refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Ala., to a white man, becoming an iconic symbol in the Civil Rights Movement. Here are some facts about that moment:
1. Parks wasn’t the first. Fifteen-year-old civil rights activist Claudette Colvin came before Parks in making news for being dragged off a bus and jailed for not giving up her seat, but she was pregnant at the time and the NAACP didn’t think she could get the support of conservatives to spark a movement. That’s where Rosa Parks came in.
2. She was an activist. Parks was a seamstress by trade, but was deeply active in the NAACP and Montgomery Improvement Association, working to improve civil rights in her community. Her Dec. 1 action of refusing to give her seat in the black section of the bus to a white man was calculated, but not planned for that time. “I got on it to go home,” Parks has said.
3. Parks knew the bus driver. The driver was James Blake, who had a reputation for treating black passengers without dignity. More than a decade earlier, Blake stopped Parks from entering the front of the bus, telling her to use the back entrance, then sped away before she got on.
4. Parks’ arrest was supposed to spark a one-day boycott. Activist E.D. Nixon, who was president of Montgomery’s NAACP chapter, led the effort to turn Parks’ arrest into a one-day boycott. It was such a success that it transformed into a broader boycott until buses were desegregated, or black people were treated better.
5. It lasted more than a year — and helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. After Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., made a speech at Holt Street Baptist Church asking people to join in the fight against segregation, nearly 20,000 passengers boycotted Montgomery’s buses regularly for the 381 days it lasted, and by the end of the boycott — after some bus lines shut down routes to black neighborhoods because they could no longer sustain the costs — more than 40,000 regular riders of the buses were no longer on them.
And that was just the beginning.
Source: Lindsay Deutsch and Josh Moon, USA TODAY Network
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