In Montgomery, the first ten seats of every bus were reserved for white patrons, regardless of whether or not they were being used. It was common to see blacks standing over the empty seats. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks and three other black passengers were asked to move from their seats which were behind the white section in order to allow a white man to be seated. The three others conceded after being threatened. However, Ms. parks continued to refuse and was arrested, jailed, booked, fingerprinted and fined. Three friends of Rosa Parks arrived at jail to post her bond: a white liberal lawyer, Clifford Durr; his wife, a white civil rights activist who employed Rosa as a seamstress; and E.D. Nixon, the former Vice President of the NAACP’s state and local branches for whom Rosa worked as a secretary.
On December 5, 1955, a successful boycott of the bus system gave the Montgomery Improvement Association momentum and the boycott continued. In the second month the boycott was almost 100% effective involving more than 30,000 black riders.
On December 20, 1956, Montgomery officials received a ruling by the Supreme Court which declared segregated seating on the buses to be unconstitutional. Parks’ act of refusing to give up her seat fueled the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Rosa Parks has been called “the first lady of civil rights” (Sunday News Magazine, New York, 24 May, 1961). She has received numerous awards including the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal (1979) and in 1980, Parks became the first woman to receive the Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. In addition, she holds ten honorary degrees.
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