Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, to James McCauley (a carpenter) and Leona Edwards (a teacher). When her parents split, she and her younger brother Sylvester moved with their mother to their grandmother’s farm in Pine Level, Alabama. Home-schooled until age 11, Rosa moved on to Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes to receive secondary education. Was forced to quit secondary education subsequently to care for her grandmother and then her mother.
In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber in Montgomery and a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rosa Parks had a variety of jobs from being a domestic worker to a housekeeper to a seamstress to a hospital aide; she completed her high school education, with her husband’s support, in 1933. She joined the NAACP in 1943; was elected to be volunteer secretary to the president of the association, Edgar Nixon.
Parks had seen the segregation between whites and blacks throughout her life – the life of dealing with segregation was marked by such discrimination against blacks on a daily base on every level of existence; she had witnessed it in schools and colleges, in the workplace and even in public transport. The system of segregation was very unusual in public buses; the first four rows of seats were reserved for whites and the rest were for blacks. A moveable board was placed in the bus to indicate the sections reserved for each race. When whites came on the bus in larger numbers, the board was moved back and additional seats were available for whites; blacks vacating those seats had to either move to the back or simply get off the bus.
On December 1, 1955, Parks and four other people were sitting in the front of the black section of the bus. As more whites got on the bus, the driver moved the board back and asked Parks and these four to give up their seats; the other four complied, but Parks refused to get up, and the driver called the police and had her arrested. Parks’ arrest marked a nationwide movement to boycott the city buses, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which started the career of none other than Martin Luther King, Jr.; this paved the way for the end of the racist and discriminatory attitude of the United States of America.
On November 13, 1956, the United States Supreme Court passed a court order ruling that racial segregation on buses is unconstitutional; the order reached Montgomery on December 20, 1956, and the bus boycott ended on the subsequent day. During the days of the trial and for many days afterwards, Parks and her NAACP associates, including Martin Luther King, Jr., were often attacked by segregationists. Life for Parks and her husband became very hard; both lost their jobs moved to Hampton, Virginia, and later to Detroit. Parks worked as a seamstress and was appointed secretary and receptionist in the congressional office of the African-American U.S. Representative John Conyers in 1965; she worked there until her retirement in 1988. Raymond Parks died of cancer in 1977; in 1987, Rosa Parks and Elaine Eason Steele co-founded Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
In 1992, Mrs. Parks released her autobiography titled Rosa Parks: My Story; in 1995, another of her memoirs titled Quiet Strength was published. The former details Mrs. Parks’ life until her decision to refuse to give up her seat on the bus; the latter focuses on the part played by faith in Parks’ life. Late in her life, she received a lot of honors, most notably the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton in 1996. Mrs. Parks died on October 24, 2005, in Detroit, after a battle with progressive dementia; she was 92. Her biography is a photo of a woman who had the strength and courage to defend what was right and just.