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HWOM: Rosa Parks

HWOM: Rosa Parks

Tue, Feb 19, 19 - Emma Holmes

Our February HWOM is the mother of the freedom movement, Rosa Parks. 

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the ‘coloured section’ of a bus to a white man she set the wheels in motion for the revolutionary Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56.

Though her story can be summarised in a few short lines, there's so much more to her act of defiance:

1. 12 years before her courageous moment, Parks had a previous encounter with James Blake, the same bus driver who demanded she give up her seat in 1955. On a particularly cold day in 1943, Parks got onto a busy bus driven by Blake, she paid her fare at the front and resisted the segregation policy for black people to re-enter the bus through the back. Parks ended up getting off the bus altogether rather than give in to the unjust demand of institutionalised racism. 

2. Rosa Parks was already a civil rights activist, and long-term member of Montgomery’s chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), though the nature of her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott was accidental. Following her run in with Blake in 1943 she avoided getting on any bus driven by Blake, and didn’t make note of the driver on the morning of 1st December 1955.

3. The universe has a way of bringing events full circle. At the end of the year long Montgomery Bus Boycott, following the Supreme Court’s outlawing bus segregation, one of the buses Parks boarded for the press was driven by James Blake. Rosa Parks had the last laugh and continued to fight for the rights of African Americans throughout her life. 

Interesting Fact: A popular myth suggests that Parks refused to give up her seat because her feet were tired. Though, Parks wrote in her autobiography “I was not tired physically.. or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in’’. 

Deservedly named ‘The First Lady of Civil Rights’ by The United States Congress, Rosa Parks transformed the lives of African Americans living in southern America and across the USA. 

Rest in peace angel.