Rosa Parks’ life events in a racial world helped her become a strong black woman and also become “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Rosa Louise McCauley lived in a world of racial fears. Blacks had to co-exist with white people in a world that lived by the Jim Crow Laws. Blacks could only attend schools that were specified for blacks to go to, they could only drink from water fountains that were only for blacks, they could only borrow books from the library that was designated for blacks only, and also many other separation laws. On February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama Rosa Louise McCauley was born into this harsh racial world.
As a child, Rosa was in a segregated school where a white boy pushed her and when she pushed back in defense the white boys’ mother threatened to kill her, and Rosa still stood her ground. Also, as a child she stood up yet again for herself against another bully, when the bully threatened to hit her she held up a brick daring him to hit her, and the bully left well enough alone. Some times while Rosa was a child while she lived with her Grandfather and the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) would go on hate strikes in their neighborhood and her grandfather would sit on their porch all night with his rifle and Rosa would stay up with him to help keep an eye on things.
Rosa met her husband, Raymond through politics. Rosa said that he was the first real activist she had ever met. At first Rosa was not interested romantically in Raymond because Raymond had lighter skin than she usually liked. She was more impressed with his self-assurance and how he refused to be bullied by the white people. Eventually, at age 19, in 1932 Rosa Louise McCauley married Raymond Parks, making her Rosa Louise Parks. Raymond was just 10 years older than Rosa was and he worked as a barber and he was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for a while now. Raymond discouraged Rosa from joining the NAACP fearing for her safety. But, in 1943 she became a member and became chapter secretary working closely to Edgar Daniel Nixon, the president of the NAACP.
Also in 1943, at age 30 Rosa Parks got thrown off a bus for the first time while alone, because she refused to pay at the front of the bus and then get off and go to the back doors just to have a seat in the colored section of the bus. She tried to walk from the front of the bus to the back of the bus without getting off. So she was grabbed by the bus driver and pulled back to the front of the bus and pushed off. She was actually one of the lucky ones because all bus drivers back then carried guns just for that matter. Therefore if she would have put up any more of a fight she could of and probably would have been shot. After that incident she tried to avoid not only the busses but also the bus driver of that bus.
In the Montgomery law books there were two laws that opposed each other. One said “No person (white or black) could be asked to give up a seat even if there were no other seats available on the bus.” While the other one said that “Segregation must be enforced.” The first one does not get a lot of attention but it is still there. Even though that law was in place, on Thursday, December 1, 1955, at age 42, Rosa Parks got asked by the bus driver, which happened to be the same one as before in 1943, to move from her seat along with 3 other black people to allow one white man to sit on the bus rather than to stand on it. When Rosa refused to give up her seat she was violating the other rule where segregation must be enforced. Rosa stated in her book that it was not that she was tired physically but more tired having to give in all the time. The bus was stopped for a while when the bus driver called it in reporting Rosa Parks was violating the second law and two police officers came to the bus to figure out what was truly going on and in the end arrested Rosa Parks for the violation of that second law.
While she only got one phone call she called her husband, Raymond from jail to explain what had happened. Little did Rosa know the word of her arrest was already getting very publicized. When she was released on bail later that night Raymond was not the only one waiting for Rosa to get out, but Edgar Daniel Nixon was also there and he went home with Rosa and Raymond. At Rosa’s home Edgar convinced Rosa, her husband and her mother, (Leona McCauley), that Rosa was just the person he had been looking for, for quite some time now. He was searching for a black spirited person of unquestioned morality and honor to be the plaintiff in a case that might change how segregation laws were written.
At the same time that Rosa was being arrested and released another major idea arose. The idea was that on the day of Rosa Parks’ trial all blacks of Montgomery would boycott the busses. So, by midnight of December 1, 1955 thirty-five thousand flyers were being mimeographed to be sent home with the black children in school to inform their parents what was going on, on December 5, 1955. When Rosa’s trial day, December 5, 1955, came along more blacks than what were expected boycotted the busses. Rosa was found guilty of violating segregation laws and given a suspended sentence and fined $10 plus $4 of court costs. Because of the trail results and the boycott size Edgar and some other ministers had decided to take advantage of it and formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) to help control the Boycott. This is also when Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, age 26 at the time, came into the picture becoming the president of the MIA.
The boycott ended up lasting 382 days, officially ending on December 20, 1956 after the Supreme Court rulings made it to Montgomery. The Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional and threw out the charges against Rosa Parks on November 13, 1956. But even after the Supreme Court rulings Rosa Parks and her family were still facing harassment and threats. So, because of these events, they moved to Detroit where Rosa’s brother Sylvester McCauley lived.
It was there that Rosa Parks became an administrative aide in the Detroit office of Congressman John Conyers Jr. in 1965. Rosa Parks’ mother, husband and brother all died of cancer between 1977 and 1979. In 1987 Rosa co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, to focus on Detroit’s youth. Rosa finally retired in 1988 from her administrative aide in Detroit. And in 1999 Rosa was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. At age 92, on October 24, 2005, Rosa died and was the first woman in the nation’s history to lie in State and in the U.S. Capitol.
As you can see Rosa Parks’ life events from her childhood, being raised in an extremely racial world, up to her first bully, all the way up to her first bus incident, and then joining the NAACP, and then helping give way to the Supreme Court rulings of bus segregation being wrong, has made her a strong black woman and helped her become “The Mother of the Civil Right Movement.”