The Legacy of Rosa Parks
When asked to explain her actions on that day she detailed her motivation in her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story:
“People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."
Her act of civil disobedience was a catalyst for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a significant event in the civil rights story. The book, Let My People Go: The Miracle of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Robert Walker describes this important event. It began on December 5, 1955 the day of Rosa Park's trial for disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. It rained that day, but the African American community persevered in their boycott. Some rode in carpools, while others traveled in black operated-cabs that charged the same fare as the bus, 10 cents. Most of the remainder of the 40,000 black commuters walked, some as far as 20 miles. In the end, the boycott lasted for 381 days. Dozens of public buses stood idle for months, severely damaging the bus transit company's finances, until the law requiring segregation on public buses was lifted.
Through her role in sparking the boycott, Parks played an important part in internationalizing the awareness of the plight of African Americans and the civil rights struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his 1958 book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story that Parks' arrest was the precipitating factor, rather than the cause, of the protest: "The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices. Actually, no one can understand the action of Mrs. Parks unless he realizes that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, 'I can take it no longer.'"
The library contains many books about Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. On this anniversary of her brave act of defiance take the time to read about this quiet exemplification of courage, dignity and determination who is nationally recognized as the "mother of the modern day Civil Rights Movement."
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