Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Pioneer, Dies at 92

Rosa Parks, who fifty years ago set off a revolution by refusing to give up her seat on the bus, died today at the age of 92.

Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92 (CNN)

Photo Rosa Parks earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rosa Parks, who helped trigger the civil rights movement in the 1950s, died Monday, her longtime friends told CNN. She was 92.

Parks inspired the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955. Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system by blacks that was organized by a young Baptist preacher, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and led to a court ruling desegregating public transportation in Montgomery.

Parks, a seamstress, facing regular threats and having lost her job, moved from Alabama to Michigan in 1957.

She joined the staff of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, in 1965, championing civil liberties. Parks later earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal.

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Dies at 92 (NYT – AP)
Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Icon, Dies at Age 92 (WaPo – AP)
Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Dies at 92 (AJC – AP)

Photo Rosa Parks entering a Montgomery, Ala., court in 1956. Rosa Lee Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died Monday. She was 92. Mrs. Parks died at her home of natural causes, said Karen Morgan, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Mrs. Parks was 42 when she committed an act of defiance in 1955 that was to change the course of American history and earn her the title ”mother of the civil rights movement.” At that time, Jim Crow laws in place since the post-Civil War Reconstruction required separation of the races in buses, restaurants and public accommodations throughout the South, while legally sanctioned racial discrimination kept blacks out of many jobs and neighborhoods in the North. The Montgomery, Ala., seamstress, an active member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was riding on a city bus Dec. 1, 1955, when a white man demanded her seat. Mrs. Parks refused, despite rules requiring blacks to yield their seats to whites. Two black Montgomery women had been arrested earlier that year on the same charge, but Mrs. Parks was jailed. She also was fined $14.

Speaking in 1992, she said history too often maintains ”that my feet were hurting and I didn’t know why I refused to stand up when they told me. But the real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long.”

Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who later earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. ”At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this,” Mrs. Parks said 30 years later. ”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.”

The Montgomery bus boycott, which came one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark declaration that separate schools for blacks and whites were ”inherently unequal,” marked the start of the modern civil rights movement. The movement culminated in the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations.

The civil rights leaders of today pale in comparison to Parks and her compatriots. I was born a decade after Parks’ act of defiance and went to school, mostly in the South, in schools that had recently desegregated. By that time, the culture had changed sufficiently that the idea of segregated institutions was inconceivable.

Rest in peace.

Related: Rosa Parks an NAACP Pawn?

Update: Great picture:

Photo Rosa Parks being booked and fingerprinted

For larger size, see In Search of Utopia.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Rosa Parks Passes

    They don’t make civil rights leaders like they used to….

  2. Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Dies at 92

    Rosa Lee Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights

  3. […] James has some words that apply almost as well to me: The civil rights leaders of today pale in comparison to Parks and her compatriots. I was born a decade after Parks’ act of defiance and went to school, mostly in the South, in schools that had recently desegregated. By that time, the culture had changed sufficiently that the idea of segregated institutions was inconceivable. […]

  4. Rosa Parks Dead At 92

    Parks, 92, reportedly died around 7 p.m. Monday at St. John Hospital on Detroit’s east side.
    Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 landed her in jail and sparked a bus boycott that is conside…

  5. Iowa Voice says:

    Rosa Parks Dies At Age 92

    CNN is reporting that Rosa Parks has died at the age of 92.

    Rosa Parks, who helped trigger the civil rights movement in the 1950s, died Monday, her longtime friends told CNN. She was 92.

    Parks inspired the civil rights movement when she refused to g

  6. Donkey Stomp says:

    Rest in Peace Rosa Parks

    Bloggers commemorate Rosa Parks

  7. Rosa Parks, 1913-2005

    Call her “the woman who refused to get up,” but I’m sure Rosa Parks had no idea what her tired feet and frustrating treatment would lead to on December 1, 1955.
    What became known as the Civil Rights movement was bound to start soone…

  8. Rosa Parks Was A Pawn

    Rosa worked for the NAACP – A black civil rights organisation. The bus adventure was staged to garner public sympathy. Be careful who you’re praising in her passing folks…

  9. T. Longren says:

    Rosa Parks Dead at Age 92

    You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Rosa Parks passed away lastnight at the ripe old age of 92. I saw a little about it lastnight on FoxNews before heading to bed. Many people attribute the civil rights progress that was made since the 50&#82…

  10. JamulBlog says:

    Rosa Parks, RIP

    Rosa Parks — that name instantly conjures intense feelings and images for me. Her famous, courageous act of defiance in 1955 was followed by many years of dignified activism. She was an altogether admirable person.
    I was only three years old i…

  11. Rosa Parks Dead at 92 What Happened To Her Legacy?

    Rosa Parks died today. She was 92. Parks was the civil rights leader who refused to move to the back of the bus and was arrested for disorderly conduct. It set off a firestorm that began the modern civil rights era that would see the end of Jim Crow….

  12. […] This blogger writes, “The civil rights leaders of today pale in comparison to Parks and her compatriots.” That’s what they always say. In the 1950s, Parks and Martin Luther King were vilified soundly by the Right. As were Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass in their day. […]

  13. Don Surber says:

    The Man Before Rosa Parks

    Many are the tributes to Rosa Parks today. I will highlight some of them later.

  14. A DECLARATION FOR ROSA PARKS, DEAD AT 92

    Whereas, You have inspired the modern civil rights movement by refusing to give your seat to a white man in opposition to the laws of the day in Montgomery, Alabama on December, 1 1955.

    Whereas, Your arrest for said act of defiance not only lead t…

  15. God Bless you Rosa!

    Rosa Parks, you were the spark that helped light a fire. I will never forget what you did, or how it changed my life and so many others. It was your quiet courage that inspired a nation and exposed…

  16. Rosa Lee Parks, 1931-2005

    Rosa Parks, one of the pioneers of the civil rights movement for minorities, who’s famous for her refusal to vacate her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus at the time they were running discriminatory laws against blacks in the southern states, has pas…

  17. lashnote says:

    i love rose