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Rosa Parks

(1913 - 2005)

Rosa Louise Parks was born February 4, 1913 to James and Leona McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. The family moved to Montgomery when Rosa was eleven years old. She attended Montgomery Industrial School for Girls where she learned many things she wasn't learning from her life in the segregated South. In 1931 Rosa married Mr. Raymond Parks. The Parks' were long-time activists in the pursuit of civil rights, long before it was popular. Mr Parks was a freedom fighter for the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s. Both were involved in voter registration drives for blacks. Rosa Parks was the secretary for the Montgomery Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was also the Youth Director for the organization.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus as whe was coming home from her work as a tailor's helper at a Montgomery department store. She sat in the "colored section". As the bus began to fill with passengers, there was a white man standing. The driver asked three black people to stand so the white man could be seated. They moved. Rosa Parks remained seated. She told the driver, "I am not going to move. I have paid my money." The driver remarked, "I will have you arrested." She told him, "Go ahead." Her action began the Montgomery bus boycott which lasted a year and resulted in the United States Supreme Court outlawing the segregation of public transportation. Her courageous demonstration altered the course of American history and changed the face of America.

After that historic date in Alabama, Mrs. Parks continued her work in the civil rights movement and  received several citations for her outstanding contributions. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference sponsors the annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award. She received an honorary doctorate from Shaw College in Detroit, Michigan. In 1976 Mayor Coleman Young and the Detroit City Council renamed a main thoroughfare "Rosa Parks Boulevard". In 1977 the United Automobile Workers awarded her the Social Justice Award. In the same year she received the Humanitarian Award from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1978 the Progressive National Baptist Convention presented her the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.

In April, 1978 the National Committee for the Rosa L. Parks Shrine was established. The purposes of the committee were to build a home for Mrs. Parks, a museum and conference center. The center was to house Mrs. Parks' personal papers and memorabilia as well as provide a site for research and study of the civil rights movement. The Detroit Historical District has granted the site on Rosa Parks Boulevard landmark status and ground was broken in 1982. As Mrs. Parks was also interested in programs which promote better relations between young people and senior citizens, the National Committee for the Rosa L. Parks Shrine also supports the continued development of the Rosa Parks Community Arts Center in Detroit. This center, established in 1980, offers classes and private instruction in art, music, dance, and drama to citizens of all ages from Detroit's inner city.

Rosa L. Parks became known as the mother of the civil rights movement in America. She has inspired many national black leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, E.D. Nixon, Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev. Jesse Jackson of PUSH. They and others have emerged to change the course of America. This petite, modest, delicate woman has become a symbol of courage for all Americans by demonstrating to the world the power of simple words, "I am not going to move." [1983]