"All I was doing was trying to get home from work."~ Rosa Parks
"At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this. It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in."
On December 1, 1955, a seamstress Rosa Parks changed American history forever when she refused to give her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus. Mrs. Parks was arrested and tried. She was found guilty of disorderly conduct and that lead directly to the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott. Many meetings were held, some in secret because of the peoples fear of retribution and it was decided that the people of Montgomery would strike. They would not use public transportation. They walked and organized car pools. For over a year this strike lasted until the courts decided that racial segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.
In addition to her arrest in December of 1955, Parks was fined $14. She refused to pay the fine, and instead appealed to the circuit court.
However, Mrs. Parks was not just the "quiet seamstress" that the media has often portrayed her to be. She was very well educated for a black Lady living in that time. She was a hard working woman who many times said she was just trying to get home. She had given up her seat many times before But that day she was just tired and tired of being treated as a second class citizen. She had already been working with others to promote non-violent change To overcome racism.
In 1943 she became a member of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she served as its secretary until 1956.
After the Bus Boycott, Mrs. Parks lost her job and, with her husband and mother, relocated to Detroit in 1957. In 1965 she joined the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan and worked until her retirement in 1988.
Parks was quiet, soft-spoken, and diplomatic. But she was firm in her belief that enough people will have the courage and dedication to make this country better than it is. Parks met many renowned leaders and has traveled throughout the world receiving honors and awards for her efforts toward racial harmony. Her response to being called "the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" was very modest. "If people think of me in that way, I just accept the honor and appreciate it," she said.
In 1999 she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest honour a civilian can receive in the United States. Mrs. Parks passed away October 24, 2005, at the age of 92.
I of course was not born when Miss Parks refused to stand. I do remember the racial rights on TV and I was in school before they were integrated. The Black people even Marched on Barnwell, as small as our town was back then. Mama and Grandma Black took us children in the car to see them march in front of the court house. Mama parked across the street from where they marched around and around carrying signs that said "WE SHALL OVER COME" Mama said we were seeing a change in American History. Grandma Just shook her head and said for us to lock the doors. I sat with my face pressed to the glass and wondered why the children were walking in circles and singing holding to their parents hands. I was worried that they would get tired walking around and around that way. Our Police force was there too just standing back. There was no violence. I asked Mama if our Maid Louise was going to quit coming to take care of us and she said "No."
I loved Louise , she would bring us Coke and rock us in her big fluffy lap. We all loved her. Daddy carried her home in the front seat of his car every night. He waited for her to get inside her house just like he did our Grandma. I believe that Daddy and Mama were good employers to their maids. I know they trusted them to keep us kids in line. I only told on one, Ada , once when she spanked me I told Daddy and he spanked me again.
I was in the Sixth grade when Barnwell schools were fully integrated. Daddy told us that we would behave and do our best regardless of what teacher we got or we would answer to him. Being integrated wasn't a problem for me personally. I Made a lot of colorful friends that first Day. I even learned the game strut Miss Lucy that first day. But I think the way Daddy and Mama handled it made it what it was for me. There would be no Tattling on the teacher what ever her or his color and if you got a spanking at school, You would have another one waiting at home.
I think sometimes it must have been hard for My parents to adjust to the changes that happened so rapidly back then. As a child I never asked Daddy what his thoughts on race were.
I can only say that I know my Daddy was a fair man and would have dealt with a person fairly whatever their color. And what ever his own thoughts he made sure that we behaved and learned as much as the school could teach us. I have included a poem I wrote for today.
Have a wonderful day!
Get to the Back of the Bus
Pay your fare.
But don't you Dare
sit across from any
white man, woman or child.
Get up! Get up I say!
Get to the Back of this Bus!
Rosa was tired, a long hard day~
She would not budge, was dragged away.
Was fined fourteen dollars and refused to pay.
"Let the court decide" was heard to say.
They walked for a year, or found another way.
Let the buses sit still! "We will not pay to be
treated this way!" Human rights! Equal rights!
What changes were wrought by a woman just
trying to get home without being made to Stand up.
Tired feet, weary body, But courage enough to Say
I will not get to the back of the bus!
Written By: Patricia Sawyer