Rosa Louise McCauley Park was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott. She has been called “the mother of the freedom movement” and “the first lady of civil rights” by the United States Congress.
In 1943, Parks joined the NAACP and went on to take part in a number of high-profile civil rights campaigns. In Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955, Parks refused the order of bus driver James F. Blake to give up a row of four seats in the colored section to a White passenger once the White section was full.
Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913, to teachers Leona (nee Edwards) and James also known as “Jimmy” McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama. Not only did Parks have African ancestry, but she also had a Scots-Irish great-grandfather and a part-Native American slave great-grandmother.
When McCauley was younger, up until the age of eleven, she was educated in a rural school. Prior to that, she learned a good deal about sewing from her mother. Around the age of six, she began helping her mother and grandmother with their quilting projects.
How Did Rosa Parks Struggle in her Life?
Although she became a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement after her arrest, Parks’ life was not without difficulty. She was fired from her job at the department store as a result of the government’s use of economic sanctions against activists.
After being told by his boss at Maxwell Air Force Base not to discuss his wife or the case, her husband was fired from his job as a barber. Parks went on the road and addressed audiences everywhere. In the 1970s, Parks worked to free political prisoners in the United States, with a focus on cases involving questions of self-defense.
In addition to her work in support of the Wilmington 10, the RNA 11 and Gary Tyler, she helped found the Detroit chapter of the Joann Little Defense Committee. Little’s claim that she had to use deadly force to defend herself from a s*xual assault helped her get off the hook after a public outcry.
The long incarceration of Gary Tyler ended in April of 2016 when he was released from prison after serving 41 years. Parks, now a widow with no living children recommitted herself to social justice causes and schools in 1980. The majority of her speaking fees were donated to the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation which she co-founded to help high school seniors pay for college.
She and Elaine Eason Steele founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in February 1987. The organization is responsible for bringing young people to significant civil rights and Underground Railroad sites across the country on the “Pathways to Freedom” bus tours.
Parks was also active in the advocacy arm of Planned Parenthood, serving on the Board of Advocates. While living in a $1,800/month apartment in 2002 (roughly $2,700/month in 2021), Parks was served with an eviction notice for failing to pay her rent.
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When did Rosa Parks Die?
On October 24, 2005, at the age of 92, Parks passed away in her apartment on the east side of Detroit from natural causes. She outlived her only sibling and never had children with her husband. Her sister-in-law (Raymond’s sister), 13 nieces and nephews and their families, and several cousins most of whom live in Michigan or Alabama are among those who survive her.
On October 27, 2005, officials in Montgomery and Detroit announced that the front seats of their city buses would be reserved in black ribbons in honor of Parks until her funeral.
On October 29, 2005, dressed as a church deaconess, Parks’ body was flown to Montgomery and borne in a horse-drawn hearse to the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. The following morning, a memorial service was held there.
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