Alabama Women's Hall of Fame

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005)

Rosa McCauley Parks

From an early age, Rosa McCauley Parks was aware of the injustices of segregation in Alabama. She had heard stories of a successful boycott that had achieved integration on Montgomery's trolley system in 1900. As she watched segregated buses ride past her each day, she was reminded of the injustice of a system that forced African-Americans to pay their fare to a white driver at the front of the bus, then exit the bus and board in the black section at the back. This indignity led her to stand up for the rights of African-Americans by sitting down and refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.

Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1913.She attended the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls and settled in Montgomery after she married Raymond Parks. The couple joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1942 and Rosa Parks served as state secretary for the organization in 1947.In the summer of 1955, Rosa attended a citizenship training course at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, where she learned more about non-violent direct action as a means of protesting violations of her own and others' civil rights.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, then 42 years old, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger. While it is commonly said that she was tired after a long day of work as a seamstress at a Montgomery department store, Parks often said that she was tired of being denied her rights. Her non-violent direct action protest, and her subsequent arrest, led to the creation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which would be led by Martin Luther King, Jr., a new preacher to the Montgomery area.The MIA, along with the Women’s Political Council, launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 381 days and led to the end of racial segregation on the city’s buses.

A long-time advocate of social justice, Parks’ actions sparked the modern Civil Rights Movement, leading to her designation as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Parks was named one of the “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century” by TIME Magazine.She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Medal in 1999. An advocate for civil and human rights, she established the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. After her death in 2005 at the age of 92, Parks became the first woman and the second African-American to lie in state in the rotunda of the nation’s capitol. Rosa Parks was a woman of silent dignity and grace whose life changed the state, the nation and the world.

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Alabama Women's Hall of Fame