Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama a well known civil rights activist. Parks was the first of two children born to James and Leona (Edwards) McCauley. Her parents were farmers who held other jobs as well. Her father worked as a carpenter while her mother was also a teacher. An ill child, Parks’ parents separated when she was young and her mother raised her and her brother on her maternal grandparents’ farm in Pine Level, Alabama.
In 1929, while in the 11th grade and attending a laboratory school for secondary education led by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes, Rosa left school to attend to both her sick grandmother and mother back in Pine Level.
In 1932, at age 19, Rosa met and married Raymond Parks, a barber and an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. With Raymond’s support, Rosa earned her high school degree in 1933.
She soon became actively involved in civil rights issues by joining the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943, serving as the chapter’s youth leader as well as secretary to NAACP President E.D. Nixon, a post she held until 1957.
Parks is famous for her refusal on December 1, 1955 to obey bus driver James Blake’s demand that she surrender her seat to a white man. Her consequent arrest and trial for this act of civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history, and launched Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the organizers of the boycott, to the forefront of the civil rights movement.
As a child, Rosa became aware of the segregation which was deeply embedded in Alabama. She experienced deep rooted racism, and became aware of the different opportunities faced by white and black children.
During the 1900s, Montgomery had passed a city regulation for the purpose of segregating passengers by race. Conductors were given the power to assign seats to accomplish that purpose; however, no passengers would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available.
Over time and by custom, however, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the practice of requiring black riders to move whenever there were no white only seats left. Rosa spent most of her life fighting for desegregation, voting rights, and was active in the Civil Rights movement that has shaped social code in the Unites States.
No matter what city she lived in, she found a way to stay involved in the community and always seemed to have a way to voice her thoughts and feelings about inequalities in society.
While Parks’ arrest and the subsequent case were of importance nationally and historically, the incident and its aftermath had a negative effect on her immediate life. She was dismissed from her job, received threats, and was hassled as were many who supported the bus boycott and the Civil Rights movement. Her health was also negatively affected.
In 2002, Parks was suffering from dementia and faced some financial difficulties. Parks could not pay her rent and relied on a local church to cover the costs for a time. Parks died on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92.