On this day in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks is arrested and jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus. She was in the first row of the ‘black section’ when the driver demanded that she give up her seat to a white male passenger.
As a result, she is known as “The mother of the civil rights movement.”
Her act of civil disobedience led to a 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr.
During the boycott, Dr. King said:
“This is not a war between the white and the Negro but a conflict between justice and injustice. If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate them. We must use the weapon of love.”
Then, in November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bus segregation laws as being in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Rosa later wrote, “I felt the presence of God on the bus and heard His quiet voice as I sat there waiting for the police to take me to the station.”
Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 and was the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
Proud to be an American
In 1996, she wrote this in response to a letter from a 13 year-old named Michael, who asked her about the changes she has seen during he 83 years:
“I am grateful to God for this long life. I am thankful that He has used me to fulfill some of His plans.
I am proud to be an American. America is a wonderful country. In just over 200 years, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, we have come a long way. Slavery has been abolished. Child labor laws have been established as the law of the land. Women have the right to vote and have taken their places in politics, the arts, sciences, and business. I am proud to see that history and her story are coming together as one as we move ahead.
Our country is the model for every other developing country in the world for achieving justice and equality for its citizens. Our Constitution has lasted longer than any other constitution in modern history.
We cannot take these blessings for granted. We must share these gifts from God. Whether we are 13 or 83, we must show the world that we are able to correct our mistakes–including homelessness, poor race relations, and violence–and move forward to a better society. I know that we can. This nation has always overcome the obstacles it has faced.”
Certainly, then, we can all be proud to be American, like Rosa Parks.