Rosa Parks: Remembering a changemaker
On the first of December in 1955, history changed for the greater good. Rosa Parks, a then 42 year old African-American, became a prominent advocate for an end to segregation.
Parks was born on February 4, 1913 in Alabama, into a family that had members that were previously enslaved. They were strong in their belief in equality which led to Parks being well aware of the rampant racial discrimination and segregation in America. She started her education at age eleven but once her grandmother fell ill she left school, leaving in the eleventh grade, to help her mother. She never returned back to school until after she got married.
Racial segregation in the 50s was deeply ingrained in society. Parks was returning home via bus after her day of work. She was seated in the first row of the “Colored Section”, but when the bus was filled the driver asked her and a few others to give up their seats for the whites. Parks refused, and remained seated in her spot.
Parks was then arrested and fined, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott started. This was a
major moment in the fight for equal rights in the United States. After her arrest, the Montgomery Improvement Association believed Parks’ case brought forth an opportunity to make a change in the world.
After the boycott she became the symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, but her arrest led her and her husband to lose their jobs. This led Parks and her spouse to move in with her mother. They soon made a new life for themselves. Parks became a secretary and a
receptionist, she was also later on the board of Planned Parenthood Federation of
America, all the while remaining a symbol of the movement she helped initiate.
After living a greatly impactful adult life, Rosa Parks was diagnosed with dementia that progressively got worse. This led to her death in October, 2005 at the age of 92. An
estimated 50,000 people were at the funeral. The chapel that held the service was renamed Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel.
Many thought that inequality would largely be eliminated in the decades that followed the 1960s. This would not be the case. As seen in countless cases throughout the past several decades, inequality persists, but icons like Rosa Parks continue to inspire future generations to take action for a just society.