Black History: Celebrating Rosa Parks
February 1, 2020
Truth & Wisdom: Getting to Know Rosa Parks
Black History Month gives us an opportunity to get to know some of the amazing black women who have shaped the world in incredible ways. Without a doubt, black women have been the unsung heroes of many of the positive changes that have taken place across time, all over the world. Unfortunately, their stories have been covered up, left out of history books, deemed unimportant, or shared incorrectly. Rosa Parks is one of those under and incorrectly acknowledged sheroes.
I learned about Rosa Parks when I was in elementary school. My lesson—I imagine—was much like every other child’s. I was taught that Rosa Parks was an older black woman who got on a bus only to find that all of the spots in the “Black section” were taken. I was told that she was very, very tired, so instead of standing, she chose to sit in the “Whites-only section” and refused to move when told to.
In my young mind’s eye, I pictured this feeble, elderly African American woman who was just too exhausted to move. It made the story all that more horrifying to me, but it also kept me from learning about how truly inspirational Rosa Parks was.
Over the years, I’ve received tidbits of information that have enlightened me to the misinformation I received about Rosa Parks as a child. Now, with National Black History Month upon us, I’ve found myself thinking back to a tour I went on while visiting Greensboro, NC. The tour took place at the International Civil Rights Museum where the incredibly knowledgeable guide worked to educate visitors on the historical misinformation being taught in schools about great African Americans. Rosa Parks was one of the names that came up. The guide urged us to do our work and to not simply accept what we were told as truth. She encouraged us to dig deeper to find the truth.
With National Black History Month upon us, let us take this opportunity to uncover the truth about the sheroes who have shaped this world. Parks was instrumental in the success of the Civil Rights Movement. The following are some facts about Rosa Parks you might find surprising.
10 Facts About Rosa Park
- Rosa Parks didn’t sit in the whites-only section of the bus: She sat in the middle rows which were first-come-first-serve with whites being given preference should the bus get full. When Parks initially sat down, there were no whites without seats. After a couple of stops, some white people boarded the bus and had nowhere to sit. The driver told Parks, along with a couple of other African Americans sitting in the same section, to move. She was the only one who refused to.
- Parks was not tired: My memory served me correctly in that the story that was told included the myth that Parks was tired, and that’s why she refused to give up her seat. Rosa Parks herself has attempted to clear up this myth saying, “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 was at the end of a working day…. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
- Rosa Parks was an activist before she was arrested: She had been involved in the Montgomery chapter of NAACP for a long time. At the time of her arrest, she was a secretary of the local NAACP chapter. She continued to be an activist long after the boycott ended.
- Rosa Parks was not the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat: 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in the same city for refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger 9 months before Parks’ act of civil disobedience.
- Rosa Parks had a prior run-in with the driver of the bus she was arrested
on :Parks had been kicked off the bus by the same driver (Blakes) in the past. He was known for being exceptionally cruel to black people (especially women), often making them pay at the front entrance, then exit only to reenter through the rear entrance. In 1943 he tried to make Parks exit and reenter and she refused. He grabbed her by the sleeve and tried to throw her off. She pulled away and got off on her own, but always made a point to avoid his bus after that.
- Rosa Parks’ act of civil disobedience helped ignite the Civil Rights Movement: Parks’ protest moved Civil Rights Activists to start the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted a year and led to the desegregation of buses.
- Rosa was arrested more than once: Parks worked for a short time as a dispatcher, arranging carpool rides for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She was also on the executive board of directors of the group organizing boycott. In 1956 she was found guilty for violating a law against organized boycotting and jailed a second time.
- Rosa Parks was forced to leave Montgomery after the boycott: Parks sacrificed a lot to advance equality for all. She lost her job and her husband had to quit his after being told there could be no talk of his wife or boycott at work. She endured threats and harassment and eventually moved.
- Parks good work continued: After leaving Montgomery Parks moved to Detroit where she became employed as an assistant to U.S. Representative John Conyers and worked to help find housing for homeless people.
- Rosa Parks was the first woman to lie in state at the U.S Capitol: Parks lived to be 92. After her death on October 24 of 2005, she was honored as her body was brought to the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol where over 30,000 came to pay their respects.
Rosa Parks was an exceptional woman before and after that history-changing day on the bus. Her actions spoke so loudly that they changed the world. But for National Black History Month, we want to acknowledge that Rosa Parks also shared some pretty wise words.
The following are 10 inspiring Rosa Parks Quotes.
“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” -Rosa Parks
“Each person must live their life as a model for others.” -Rosa Parks
“Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” -Rosa Parks
“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” -Rosa Parks
“I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.” -Rosa Parks
“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” -Rosa Parks
“As far back as I can remember, I knew there was something wrong with our way of life when people could be mistreated because of the color of their skin.” -Rosa Parks
“Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.” -Rosa Parks
“There is just so much hurt, disappointment, and oppression one can take… The line between reason and madness grows thinner.” -Rosa Parks