On December 1st sixty-three years ago, Rosa Parks refused white bus driver James Blake’s order to give up her seat for a white passenger in 1955.
After refusing to move to the “colored section,” Parks was arrested later that evening, and four days later she was convicted of disorderly conduct. Her act of courage sparked a movement and led to the boycott of the Montgomery bus system by Blacks.
At the time of her arrest, the 42-year-old seamstress was serving as secretary of the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter. She caught the attention of Baptist minister Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who was only 26 years old at the time.
King’s organization of the 381-day boycott ultimately led to the 1956 U.S. Supreme Court Decision (Browder v. Gayle) that ended the public transportation segregation laws in the South. In addition, the success of the Montgomery bus boycott helped King emerge as a civil rights leader. Dr. King was tried for conspiracy for the role he played in the boycott, reports the NYTimes.
“I did not get on the bus to get arrested,” Parks later said of the incident. “I got on the bus to go home.”
Following the boycott, Rosa Parks and her husband moved to Virginia before eventually settling in the Detroit, where they resided for nearly 50 years. Until her retirement in 1988, Parks worked for African-American congressman John Conyers as a secretary and receptionist.
In 1996, Parks was awarded the Presidential U.S. Medal of Freedom. Over the course of her lifetime, the “mother of the civil rights movement” received two dozen honorary doctorates, including one from Soka University in Tokyo, Japan.
She died on Oct. 24, 2005, at her east side Detroit apartment at the age of 92.