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Activist
Born: February 4, 1913, Tuskegee, AL
Died: October 24, 2005, Detroit, MI

Disorderly Conduct: December 1, 1955, Montgomery, AL

Lay in Honor: October 30-31, 2005, U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC

As the story goes

Rosa Parks finished her day as a department store seamstress, and that particular day, she was really feeling tired – tied of prejudicial treatment. When the bus came, she paid her fare and absent mindedly took a seat, and a while later, after stops and passengers entering and leaving the bus, when the driver announced that blacks had to get up so whites could sit down, Rosa Parks said no. It was the law and she wasn’t the first black passenger to say no and Parks wasn’t the first to be tossed off the bus or arrested either. Pressure had been greatly increased earlier in the year when a 15-year-old girl, Claudette Colvin, was arrested on March 2, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. She was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council.

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Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott

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On that particular day of December 1, 1955, it wasn’t understood by the nation that Rosa Parks was happily married, gainfully employed, attractive and serious, and a member of the NAACP — and that added up to the perfect score for Civil Disobedience and  the early African-American Civil Rights movement. It was the perfect combination of conditions for the city that was about to get the world’s attention. Overnight, thousands of flyers were copied and by that next morning, huge numbers of Montgomery’s blacks were boycotting the bus company.

Parks was fired from her job. After this, very few blacks would ride and the events brought national attention to Montgomery — many blacks even rode mules or got sore feet. Black cabbies began to drive their black passengers for 10¢ (the same fare the bus company charged) — later on, their insurance would be canceled.

Martin Luther King, Jr. made speeches, and his house was firebombed. Two white men, Raymond D. York and Sonny Kyle Livingston, confessed to the bombing, but were acquitted anyway. Other whites spoke out against the violence, and it eventually subsided.

Fifty-five weeks after the boycott began, the Supreme Court ruled that since blacks and whites paid the same fare, they had the same right to a seat, and on 20 December 1956, Mrs. Parks paid 10¢ and sat wherever she pleased.

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Rosa Parks Interview (Merv Griffin Show 1983):

Program Description
Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks tells Merv the famous story of her refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 and her subsequent arrest— the event widely regarded as the spark which lit the flames of the Civil Rights Movement. She also talks about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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For a complete list of individuals who have lain in state or lain in honor in the Capitol Rotunda, see The Architect of the Capitol website.

For more on Rosa Parks and related articles, see Wikipedia.

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