Rosa Parks was an iconic American civil rights leader of the 1950s and beyond who is remembered as the Mother of the Freedom Movement.
Her simple act of politely refusing to give up her seat in the “Colored” section of a Montgomery, Alabama public bus, to a White person in 1955, was the spark that launched the U.S. civil rights movement.
The discipline, dignity and courage of civil rights leaders of that era cannot be overstated. She is an example for us all because the work isn’t done, yet.
Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913.
From childhood, she was very good with needle and thread. Parks worked as a seamstress and was also the secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
“I Don’t Think I Should Have to Stand Up”
After a day of work on December 1, 1955, Parks took the bus from downtown Montgomery. She sat in the “Colored” section. When the “White” section filled up, the driver insisted that she move to the back of the bus. It’s hard to imagine today, but that’s how it was, once upon a time in America.
All she did was to remain seated and politely say, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” She later reported being inspired by thinking of Emmett Till, the child who was brutally lynched in Mississippi earlier in 1955, and whose open casket shocked the world.
The bus driver had her arrested. Parks maintained her dignity through the entire process. She kept her cool and that was key. Her dignity made her unassailable. That’s a lesson for us today.
Parks was convicted of of disorderly conduct and fined $14. That’s about $150 dollars today.
Within days, a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was an important step on his path to greatness.
The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation is unconstitutional.
Rosa Parks Changed the World by Keeping Her Cool
Parks moved north to get away from racism in the American South. She went on to become a congressional staff member. She was active in her church and continued to work to promote civil rights. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
Rosa Parks died of old age in Detroit in 2005.
There are many stories about the legendary woman. One thing that stands out about her character is that she always kept her cool. It’s a lesson for us today.
Keep your cool and you just might change the world.