Rosa Parks was unarguably one of the most influential people of the Civil Rights Movement, and thus, American history. Her contributions extend far beyond refusing to get off of a bus.
That one moment in time is just a very, very small fragment of decades of service and incomparable hard work. She, unlike others, stood up to the plate. She took no bargain or deals in order to escape the ridicule that her actions prompted. Instead she used this opportunity as a massive stepping-stone toward not only the advancement of black people, but for the human race.
It was not some freak accident that sparked Rosa Parks’ passion for pushing civil rights. Parks was quoted in an interview saying, “I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.”
It was dreadful memories like this one and others that drove Parks to advocate social change. She knew early on that if her dedication proved to be successful, it would not be helpful to an individual, but it would mean enormous progress for a people. Long before her 1955 refusal to give up her seat for a white man, she had been working for the Montgomery, Ala. Chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. “I worked on numerous cases with the N.A.A.C.P,” Mrs. Parks has stated, “but we did not get the publicity. There were cases of flogging, peonage, murder and rape. We didn’t seem to have too many successes. It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens.”
Different from many of the stories that have been told, Parks was not simply tired. She knew what she was getting herself into by not getting up. For many blacks at that time had done the very same thing. They were all willing to risk going to jail in order to make a big and bold public statement. If she was tired of anything, it was the centuries of pure ugly injustice with which white supremacy tried to crush the black spirit.
After this happened, she did not sit back, which would clearly have been the most easy and stress-free route. She pressed on with a fight. She continued her labor even more feverously with the N.A.A.C.P. and helped to lead a 382-day bus boycott across the entire city. She fearlessly appealed her case and the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.
She along with the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., formed the Montgomery Improvement Association. She served on the staff for U.S. Representative John Conyers and founded the Raymond and Rosa Parks Institute for Self-Development.
A one-page tribute will never do her justice. Often times, it is with the names of people like these that complacency enters. She is accepted as just another name to learn. Her gift to this country deserves heroic respect and honor and all should take the time out to reflect on her contributions and then, our own. Interestingly enough, as she aged, her life did slow in terms of her activism, but never in her conviction.
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