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Black News and News Makers in History: Rosa Parks

African American news - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Rosa Parks this week in Black history.Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama to James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona McCauley, a teacher. At the age of two, she moved to her grandparents' farm in Pine Level, Alabama with her mother and younger brother, Sylvester.

In 1924, at the age of 11, she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school founded by liberal-minded women from the northern United States. The school's philosophy of self-worth was consistent with Leona McCauley's advice to "take advantage of the opportunities, no matter how few they were."

"Back then," Mrs. Parks recalled in an interview, "we didn't have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down." In the same interview, she cited her lifelong acquaintance with fear as the reason for her relative fearlessness in deciding to appeal her conviction during the bus boycott. "I didn't have any special fear," she said. "It was more of a relief to know that I wasn't alone."

After attending Alabama State Teachers College, the young Rosa settled in Montgomery, with her husband, Raymond Parks. The couple joined the local chapter of the NAACP and worked quietly for many years to improve the lot of African-Americans in the segregated south.

The bus incident led to the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by the young pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The association called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. The boycott lasted 382 days and brought Mrs. Parks, Dr. King, and their cause to the attention of the world. A Supreme Court Decision struck down the Montgomery ordinance under which Mrs. Parks had been fined, and outlawed racial segregation on public transportation.

In 1957, Mrs. Parks and her husband moved to Detroit, Michigan where Mrs. Parks served on the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers. The Southern Christian Leadership Council established an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award in her honor.

After the death of her husband in 1977, Mrs. Parks founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. The Institute sponsors an annual summer program for teenagers called Pathways to Freedom. The young people tour the country in buses, under adult supervision, learning the history of their country and of the civil rights movement. President Clinton presented Rosa Parks with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996. She received a Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

Mrs. Parks spent her last years living quietly in Detroit, where she died in 2005 at the age of 92. After her death, her casket was placed in the rotunda of the United States Capitol for two days, so the nation could pay its respects to the woman whose courage had changed the lives of so many. She is the only woman and second African American in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, an honor usually reserved for Presidents of the United States.

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It was on December 1, 1955 that Rosa Parks, a seamstress, was arrested for violating a racial segregation city law. The law required Whites and Blacks to sit in separate row in buses. Rosa had refused to give up her seat on a bus to a White man.

She was sitting in the fifth row, the first row that Blacks were allowed to occupy, along with three other Blacks. Soon, all of the first four rows of the bus were filled and a White man boarded. Since Blacks, by law, were required to give up their seats to Whites and Blacks and Whites could not sit in the same rows, the bus driver wanted all of the Blacks to move.

The other three Blacks moved, but Rosa refused. As secretary to Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, she agreed to let the NAACP provide legal council. When found guilty on December 5, she was fined $10.00 plus a court cost of $4.00, but she appealed.

Her refusal to move resulted in her arrest and began a 382-day boycott of the bus system by African Americans, which began on December 5th and ended shortly after December 13, 1956 and became known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Rosa Parks' case was filed in United States District Court, which ruled in her favor, declaring segregated seating on buses unconstitutional, a decision later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The boycott was planned before Rosa Parks' arrest by E.D. Nixon, president of the local NAACP chapter and a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

Others before Rosa were refusing to relinquish her seat, however it was Rosa's incident set in motion the turning point in the twentieth century African-American battle for civil rights and marked the beginning of the modern American Civil Rights movement. As a result of her courage, Rosa Parks is considered one the pioneers of the modern civil right movement.

Compiled from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/par0bio-1 and www.anothershadeofcolor.com.

For a Rosa Parks timeline, visit RosaParksFacts.com, Author Intentionally Anonymous and go to "timeline".