History

Remembering the Rosa Parks Arrest

On December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested and put in jail after she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. This incident and act of nonviolent protest lead to the Montgomery bus boycott. For 381 days, protesters refused to ride the bus in an effort to desegregate them.

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Known as the “mother of the civil rights movement”, Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama in 1913. She was a seamstress by trade and joined Montgomery’s NAACP chapter in 1943. Rosa Parks was married to Raymond Parks, who was also a member of the NAACP chapter. He is credited with encouraging his wife to earn her high school diploma. Rosa Parks was also denied the right to vote twice because of her race.

By famously refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger, Parks committed a crime since she had violated city ordinances based in racial segregation. According to city laws, African Americans were obligated to give seats up on the bus to white passengers should the front of the bus be filled.

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She was sitting in the front row at the time when the bus driver ordered her to give up the seat to a white man. Though it is said that she refused on account of having tired feet, she was also a part of plans to disrupt and challenge racial segregation on buses.

After her arrest, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. organized the boycott in an act of civil disobedience. Since African Americans made up roughly 70% of bus ridership in Montgomery, the system suffered greatly from the boycott. These actions put both King and Parks in the spotlight as national figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The boycott struggle went on for several months, but ended in a United States Supreme Court ruling that stated that public bus segregation is unconstitutional.