Over 100 years ago, a baby would be born that would change the course of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Rosa Parks was a 42 year old African-American woman who was simply returning home from a long day at work. Riding Bus 2587, she was told to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She refused and was arrested for breaking segregation laws. This led to a 13 month boycott and the presence of Martin Luther King, Jr. as a leader for equal rights.
Here are some interesting facts about the woman who would become the foundation of an equality movement that would shape the United States.
1. Was It Really Rosa Parks on the Bus?
Although Rosa Parks was arrested for civil disobedience, she wasn’t the first African-American woman on a Montgomery bus to be arrest. A 15 year old girl, Claudette Colvin, had the same thing happen to her 9 months before it happened to parks. Three other women were charged with their conduct on the bus before Parks as well. Parks and these three other women sued and it eventually led to a Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was illegal.
2. Did Parks Do It On Purpose?
Rosa Parks had been a long time member of the NAACP. She was a secretary for the local chapter and had attended workshops on social and economic justice. Although her refusal wasn’t likely intended to start a national movement, it would be fair to say that she knew what she was doing when she said “No.” Her experience allowed for more national exposure and the rest became history.
3. Don’t Ever Trust a Bus Driver…
Two years before, Parks had been kicked off the bus by James Blake, a regular driver in Montgomery. She’d paid her fare at the front, but was then told to get on the bus from the back door. She refused. “After that, I made a point of looking at who was driving the bus before I got on. I didn’t want any more run-ins with that mean one,” she wrote in her autobiography. It was Blake who demanded that Parks give up her seat. And, proving that karma comes back around, it was Blake’s bus that Parks boarded after segregation was considered illegal.
4. Parks Was Within Her Rights
Many people believe Rosa Parks was sitting in a Whites Only section of the bus, but this wasn’t the case. She was sitting in the middle rows, which according to segregation laws, were available to her if they were empty. When the Whites Only section filled up, that’s when Blake ordered Parks and three others to move because 1 white man was left standing.
5. She Was the First Woman to Lie In State
When Rosa Parks passed away in 2005, her final tribute was what is normally reserved for military leaders or statesmen. Her body was brought to the Capital rotunda and more than 30,000 people came to pay their respects to her.