Rosa parks was born on February 4,1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. She
was a civil rights leader. She attended Alabama State College, worked as a
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seamstress and as a housekeeper. Her father, James McCauley, was a carpenter,
and her mother, Leona (Edward’s) McCauley was a teacher. Rosa P. had one
Her family lived in Tuskegee. When Rosa was two years-old her parents
split up and she, her mother, and her brother moved to her grandparents farm in
Nearby Pine Level, Alabama. Her grandparents were one of the few black
families who owned their own land, rather than work for someone else. Although
they were poor, they were able to raise enough food for all.
During the first half of this century for all blacks living in America skin
color affected every part of their lives. The South in particular was very racist.
Slavery had been abolished only by some fifty years earlier, and blacks were still
hated and were feared by whites because of skin color.
Jim Crow had a law “separate but equal.” The Supreme Court ruled in
1896, that equal protection could not mean separate but equal facilities. Blacks
were made to feel inferior to whites in every way. They were restricted in their
choices of housing and jobs, were forced to attend segregated schools, and were
prohibited from using many restaurants, movie theaters. Rosa Parks said, years
later, “Whites would accuse you of causing trouble when all of you were doing
was acting like a normal human being, instead of crining. You didn’t have to wait
for a lynching. You died each time you found yourself face to face with this kind
Rosa Parks didn’t like attending a poor, one-room school, with few books
or supplies, not being able to stop on her way home from school to get a soda
or a candybar. She hated how they were parts for blacks like restaurants, trains,
and bus and even being forced to give up her seat for a white person.
Rosa’s mother, Leona McCauley, worked as a teacher, and the whole
family knew the value of education. Rosa attended the local black elementary
school, where her mother was the only teacher. When she graduated, the family
worked hard to save enough money to send her to a private school for black
girls. At the age of 11 she began to attend Montgomery Industrial School for
Girls. At the age of 13, she started a Booker T. Washington Junior High, a black
public school in Montgomery. When she graduated, two years later no public
high schools in Montgomery were open to black students, who were then forced
to abandon their education. The McCauley family was determined that Rosa
would succeed, and they worked together to raise enough money to send her to
Alabama State College to finish her high school classes. When Rosa was close
to graduating, though , the family fell on hard times and could no longer afford
schools, etc. Her grandfather had died a few years earlier, and her grandmother
became ill. Rosa decided to leave school for a while to help take care for her and
to help out on the family farm. Her grandmother died soon after, and then her
mother also became ill. Rosa was forced to abandon her classes for good.
In 1931, Rosa met and fell in love with Raymond Parks, a barber who was
active in civil rights causes. They were married in 1932 and settled in
Montgomery. Raymond Parks encouraged Rosa to finish her education, and she
received her high school diploma from Alabama State College in 1933.
After her marriage, Rosa Parks worked at several different jobs, as an
insurance saleswoman and as a seamstress, doing alterrations either in a shop or
in peoples homes. Through the Depression, both Parks and her husband were
fortunate to be able to find regular work.
Leaders in the black community planned the strategy to challenge parks
arrest, because she sat in a white seat in a bus. To protest the unfair treatment
and to show their strengh, they decided to stage a one- day boycott of the city’s
buses on the coming Monday. As Nixon said, ” The only way to make the
power structure do away with segregation is to take some money out of their
pockets,” and considering that 70 percent or more of the Montgomery bus riders
were black, they were in position to do just that. Ministers of black churches
were soon involved in the planning, including Rev. Ralph Abernathy and Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom became leaders in the civil rights
movement. King, then young and virtually unknown, was asked to lead the
boycott, which soon brought him to the forefront of national attention.
Within a few months bus segregation was ruled unconstitutional, and the
buses were officially desegregated in December 1956. Rosa who had lost her job
because of the boycott, moved to Detroit, Michigan, the following year, and
again took in sewing. She also worked as a fundraiser for the NAACP. In 1965
she was hired by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., also a cvil rights leader, to
manage Detroit office. She remained active in the NAACP and the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In 1987 she founded the Rosa and
Raymond parks Institute for Self Development, offering Guidance to young
blacks She won the NAACP’s Spingman Medal (1970) and the Martin King Jr.
Award (1980), as well as an honorary degree from Shaw College.
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