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REMEMBERING MARTIN LUTHER KING JR: Spotlight: Rosa Parks

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REMEMBERING MARTIN LUTHER KING JR: Spotlight: Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by an Alabama police officer following her arrest. PHOTO: The Associated Press

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Louise Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus.

By staying seated, she stood up to racial injustice in America and helped spark a wave of protest for civil rights in the United States.

Keep reading for more about this contemporary of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Early life

Rosa Louise McCauley was born Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, to James and Leona Edwards McCauley. She had one brother, Sylvester, who was born two years later. She grew up in Pine Level, Alabama, and finished her education there at age 11. McCauley then enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls before going on to the Alabama State Teacher’s College High School. She married Raymond Parks Dec. 18, 1931.

Living for justice

Raymond Parks was an activist to free the Scottsboro Boys, three black teenagers jailed and accused of raping two white women on an Alabama train in 1931. The case is now regarded as a miscarriage of justice by using all-white juries to convict, repeatedly, the teenagers. Both Raymond and Rosa Parks participated in NAACP programs, where Rosa served as secretary and youth leader of the local branch. Rosa’s 1955 arrest sparked a wave of protests and the Montgomery bus boycott which lasted 381 days and featured King as a spokesperson.

Later years

Rosa Parks moved to Detroit in 1957, where she became a deaconess in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She also worked for Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and helped found the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development for youth.

Rosa Parks holds more than 43 honorary doctorate degrees and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. She died Oct. 24, 2005.

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