Remembering Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was a seamstress by profession and was also the secretary for the Montgomery chapter of NAACP, a civil rights organisation working to advance justice for African Americans.

Known as the “mother of the freedom movement”, Parks was born on 4 February 1913. She was given this title due to her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott and the fight against Jim Crow Laws in the USA. 

To further understand her as a revolutionary figure, we have to understand the history of racism, slavery and segregation in the USA.

Slavery in the USA: The legal institution of human chattel enslavement

From its founding in 1776 to 1865, slavery existed in America. The rapid growth of the cotton industry in the south of America increased the demand for slave labour. This caused the United States to become polarised (and not so united) over the issue of slavery, where the Northern and Southern states were split into free and slave states, respectively.

This consequently resulted in the American Civil War beginning in 1861, leading to the end of chattel slavery in America. However, the end of slavery did not mean the end of oppression for black people in America.

Jim Crow Laws on Public Transport Systems

Laws were created in some states to separate people of colour (mostly black people) and white people. This meant that some public services like restaurants, schools and even drinking fountains were exclusively serving white individuals, disallowing black people and people of colour from entering the premises.

Racial segregation laws were enforced on public transport systems. For example, white people were allowed to fill seats from the front to back while black people would fill seats from back to front, until the bus was full. If a white person boarded a crowded bus, everyone in the black row nearest to the front half of the bus would have to stand so that a new row of white people could be formed.

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

One afternoon in 1955, Parks was seated in the foremost row in which black people were allowed to sit. When a white man boarded the bus, everyone in the foremost row was told to move back by the bus driver. She refused and noticed that the driver was the same man who stopped her from boarding his bus from the front door a few years prior. Parks was later arrested for failing to obey the driver’s orders.

The arrest of Rosa Parks spread outrage throughout the black community in Montgomery. An impending boycott was advertised at black churches where an organised system of carpools was created. Black taxi drivers began to charge a fare equal to the cost of a bus ride in support of the boycott. 

From white housewives driving their black servants to and from work, to individuals hitchhiking, cycling and driving horse-drawn buggies, the boycott proved to be extremely effective as it caused the city transit system serious economic distress. After 381 days, laws were finally amended and black people were allowed to sit anywhere they chose on buses.

This history of resistance and protest for equal rights is seen throughout Black history. Rosa Parks is one of many heroic figures who helped ignite such passion for change in future generations.

Let's Discuss

The passion for change and justice can be seen though figures like Rosa Parks who stands for the civil rights and freedom of her community. What kind of changes (environmentally, socially, politically...) do YOU feel passionate about?


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