Rosa Parks Day recognizes “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.,” Rosa Parks. We celebrate her achievements every December 1 (and in many locations on February 4).
We honor her as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Her refusal to move to the back of a bus in 1955 sparked a 381-day long boycott that desegregated the buses in Montgomery, Alabama.
When is Rosa Parks Day Celebrated?
Depending on where you live, Rosa Parks Day is celebrated on a different day. Some areas celebrate on December 1, the day she refused to give up her bus seat. Other areas celebrate her day on February 4, her date of birth.
The Legislature of the State of California created their Rosa Parks Day on the day of her protest. Ohio declared Rosa Parks Day to be on her birthday.
Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement refers to a battle waged by African Americans against segregation, mistreatment, and racial discrimination. Led by people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, the Movement started in the 1950s and culminated with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
However, as Rosa Parks grew older, she said, “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”
- She was a seamstress by trade, but she was also highly active in the NAACP. She was aware that other Civil Rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, were planning a bus boycott for December 5th.
- Originally, the bus boycott that followed Rosa Parks’ actions would be for one day. But the success of the boycott meant that blacks in Montgomery gave up riding the bus for over a year, and the bus law was changed.
- A speech given by Martin Luther King Jr. is credited with impacting the size and breadth of the boycott. He asked all of Montgomery’s black citizens to participate and put the spotlight on segregation.
- Rosa Parks was not the first woman to be arrested for not giving up her seat. A fifteen-year-old woman named Claudette Colvin was arrested and dragged off a bus. She was pregnant, and a decision was made not to pressure her into leading a boycott.
- This was not the first time Rosa Parks had a problem with this particular bus driver. His name was James Blake, and ten years earlier, he had refused to allow Rosa Parks to enter at the front of the bus. Blake told her to go to the rear entrance. He then sped off without picking her up.
The Hidden Life of Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks Quotes
All the following quotes are attributed to Rosa Parks:
- “Arrest me for sitting on a bus? You may do that.”
- “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would also be free.”
- “I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.”
- “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in”
- “As a child, I learned from the Bible to trust in God and not be afraid. And I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear.”
- “To this day, I believe we are here on earth to live, grow, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.”
Rosa Parks’ Insights
- “I learned to put my trust in God and to see Him as my strength. Long ago, I set my mind to be a free person and not give in to fear. I always felt that it was my right to defend myself if I could. I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
- “That was the difference between black slaves and white indentured servants. Black slaves were usually not allowed to keep their names but were given new names by their owners.”
- “One of my greatest pleasures was enjoying the smell of bacon frying and coffee brewing and knowing that white folks were doing the preparing instead of me. I was 42 years old, and it was one of the few times in my life, up to that point, when I did not feel any hostility from white people.”
- “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”
Memorials and National Recognition for Rosa Parks
- Since 2013, a statue of Rosa Parks has been placed in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.
- In 1996, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.
- Rosa Parks was named an International Freedom Conductor by the Underground Railroad Freedom Center in 1998,
- In 1979, Rosa Parks was awarded the NAACP’s highest award, the Spingarn Medal. This was followed in 1980 with her receiving The NAACP’s Martin Luther King award.
- In 1999, Time Magazine named Rosa Parks as one of the 20 most powerful and influential figures of the 20th century.
Why is Rosa Parks Still Relevant Today?
Tensions continue to run high in the minority community. Recent incidents with the police have spawned riots and protests. The inequity that Rosa Parks was trying to point out in 1955 is not that far removed from how minorities are treated today.
The principles that Rosa Parks fought for are just as valid now as they were 65 years ago. When Rosa Parks died in 2005, she became the first and only woman to “lay in honor” in the Capitol Rotunda. As a private citizen, she was not eligible to “lay in state.” However, in September of 2020, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first and only woman to “lay in state” in the Rotunda.
In July 2020, U.S. Representative John Lewis became the first black member of Congress to “lay in state” in the Rotunda. Representative Lewis was also a Civil Rights icon and leader in the Movement. Jacob J. Chestnut, Jr. is the only black man to “lay in honor” in the Rotunda. He was a Capitol police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
By T. R. Moodie
T.R. Moodie grew up in the South and witnessed segregation and prejudice first-hand.
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