Childhood & Early Life
Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, USA, to Leona and James McCauley. She belonged to a middle class family. Her father was a carpenter, while her mother was a teacher. Her parents separated and she moved to Pine Level with her mother.
She attended the ‘Industrial School for Girls’ in Montgomery. She then went to a school set up by the ‘Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes’ for her secondary education. However, she dropped out of it to take care of her family.
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After getting married in 1932, Parks took up menial jobs and worked as domestic worker, hospital aide, etc., as she did not have formal education to land a decent job. On her husband’s insistence, she finished high school studies.
In 1943, Parks became increasingly involved in the ‘Civil Rights Movement’ and joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP. Since Parks was the only female there, she was elected as the secretary of the organization.
While she was the secretary, she was given the task of investigating the gang-rape of a black woman named Recy Taylor in 1944. Along with other activists, she started the ‘Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor’ campaign.
In the following years, Parks landed a job at ‘Maxwell Air Force Base,’ as federal property did not practice racism. She also took up a job as a housekeeper for Clifford and Virginia Durr, a liberal white couple.
In 1955, Parks attended a mass meeting in Montgomery to discuss the case of a black teenager named Emmett Till who was killed at the age of 14 for offending a white woman. The meeting addressed the issues of racial segregation in the society.
While riding a bus, she was asked to give up her seat for a white passenger. She refused to do so and was arrested in 1955. She was charged with violation of Chapter 6, Section 11 segregation law.
She was bailed out the next evening by Edgar Nixon, the president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and a friend named Clifford Durr. Alongside Jo Ann Robinson, Nixon announced a bus boycott in retaliation.
Within the next morning, the ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’ was announced at black churches, and ‘The Montgomery Advertiser’ publicized the news. It aimed at demanding equal treatment of blacks, hiring of black bus drivers, etc.
It seemed that Parks’ case would take years to resolve, but the state pushed things forward with regards to her case as the ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott,’ which continued for 381 days, affected the public bus business.
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Since Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about Parks’ arrest in his 1958 book ‘Stride Toward Freedom,’ it is considered that Parks played a pioneering role in raising international awareness of the predicament of African-Americans and the civil rights struggle.
Although she became famous, Parks had to leave for Virginia in 1957 as she could not keep her job due to sanctions used against activists. She worked as a hostess in an inn, located in a historical black college.
In 1965, she was hired as a secretary and receptionist for John Conyers’ congressional office in Detroit. John Conyers was an African-American U.S. Representative. She worked at the position for almost 23 years.
During the 1980s, she re-associated herself with the civil rights and educational endeavors. With the little money that she had, she co-founded the ‘Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation’ for college-bound high school seniors.
She also co-founded the ‘Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development’ with Elaine Eason Steele in 1987. It was an institute built with an aim to introduce young people to important civil rights and Underground Railroad sites.
In 1992, Parks wrote her autobiography ‘Rosa Parks: My Story’ which narrates the incidents leading up to her decision not to give up her seat in the bus. A few years later, she published her memoir ‘Quiet Strength.’
Personal Life & Legacy
Parks married Raymond, a barber from Montgomery, in 1932. He was a member of the NAACP. She remained married to him until his death from throat cancer in 1977. They did not have children.
Parks and her husband suffered from stomach ulcers for years. Her husband, brother, and mother were diagnosed with cancer. She had to take care of them and eventually, all of them died by the end of ‘70s.
Parks died in Detroit in 2005. She became the first woman and the second black person whose casket was transported to Washington, D.C. to be placed at the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
‘Rosa Parks Highway’ in Missouri is named after her.
Parks was not a wealthy woman and lived off on her salary money.
She appeared in the television series ‘Touched by an Angel.’
She was unable to pay the rent of her apartment in Detroit. However, because of her image and fame, executives of the ownership company announced in 2002 that she could live there for free for the rest of her life.
In 1994, an African-American drug addict broke into her house, stole from her, and attacked her.