12 Facts About Rosa Parks
The truth about the civil rights icon
Monday, Feb. 4, 2013, marked the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ birth. But the seamstress who became famous after refusing to give up her seat on a bus in segregated Montgomery, Ala., to a white man is more complex than she’s been depicted as in history texts. Jeanne Theoharis’ new book, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” reveals Parks as a three dimensional person with politically radical views. The following facts demonstrate that the civil rights icon marched to the beat of her own drum.
Parks' militant streak seems to have been inherited. Her grandfather, who raised her along with her grandmother in Pine Level, Ala., was a follower of back-to-Africa proponent Marcus Garvey. Parks would sit on the porch with her grandfather as he held a shotgun to fend off any Klansmen who dared threaten them. Parks’ grandparents were former slaves.
As a child, Parks threatened a white man with a brick after he insulted her.
Growing up in Pine Level, Parks and other black children were forced to walk to school while the city provided bus transportation for white students.
Parks dropped out of school because her mother and grandmother both suffered from poor health. After her marriage to husband Raymond at the age of 19 in 1932, however, she earned her high school diploma.
As a young woman working as a maid, she fended off a white man who tried to rape her.
Parks was a civil rights activist before the famous bus incident. She served as secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.
Parks was not the first black in Montgomery to protest the segregated bus system. Two other black women refused to relinquish their seats to whites before Parks did on Dec. 1, 1955. Civil rights groups reportedly didn’t rally behind these women because they didn’t think they represented blacks well enough. One of the women was an unwed teen, for example. The married and educated Parks was the type of woman civil rights groups thought could inspired blacks in Montgomery to boycott Jim Crow.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted for more than a year—381 days to be exact.
While the Montgomery Bus Boycott proved successful, Parks and her husband were forced to relocate North to Detroit because her political activism made it difficult for Parks to obtain work.
Once in Michigan, Parks worked for Congressman John Conyers and served on the board of Planned Parenthood.
Parks died on Oct. 24, 2005, nearly 50 years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.
On Feb. 4, 2013, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled its Rosa Parks Forever Stamp in recognition of her 100th birthday.
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