“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear” (Parks and Reed 17). Lack of fear is one thing that truly drove Rosa Parks to become the civil rights activist she is known as today. Rosa Parks has made a significant impact on American and world society because of her background significance, social significance, civil rights significance, and legacy significance. Rosa Parks had a unique background, which impacted the person which she became. She was born in Alabama in the year 1913, with a darker-colored skin (Parks and Haskins 6). Born as Rosa Louise McCauley, she was the first of her parents’ two children.
From a young age, Rosa was taught and expected to care for other people’s well-being. In order to be available, she dropped out of high school when her mother and grandmother fell ill. In the area that Mrs. Parks was being raised, segregation was extremely prevalent at the time. A prime example of these separations was the public busing system. The first of many limitations on the buses was that African-Americans had to enter at the front of the bus to pay their fare, however once paid, were required to exit the vehicle and re-enter at the back to take their seat.
The rows of seats on the buses were also divided into three sections. Those in the front were reserved for the whites, whereas those in the back were reserved for the people of color. There would be a row in the middle, which acted as a no-man’s land. This remained so until a number of whites, that surpassed the number of seats allotted in the front boarded the bus. In this case, any blacks in the center section would have to remove themselves to the rear. Schools and restaurants were also divided by segregation, which often drew the line between social standards and expectations. Rosa Parks met Raymond Parks and they married in 1932 when she was age nineteen and he was 29. Raymond was also interested in and dedicated to the same social issues as his wife.
Although he had very little formal education, Raymond was determined to self-educate, to the point where many thought he was a college graduate. Following their marriage, Raymond encouraged his wife to return to school to recieve her High School Diploma. To further her knowledge, Mrs. Parks also attended the Highlander Folk School. Training was available at this school for peaceful protesting and remaining a quality citizen during protest. In conclusion, Rosa’s background held huge contribution to who she became. Mrs.
Parks made one decision on December 1, 1955 which greatly contributed to social change. While on a public bus of Montgomery, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. The situation began when an excess of whites boarded the bus, which required that Mrs. Parks’ row of colored people move a row back, or stand in the rear. Although she was at the same time refusing to follow the law, Mrs. Parks refused to move. Her refusal was not inspired by fame, nor was it deterred by fear. Also, the refusal was not a result of her being physically tired, but because she had simply made up her mind that she was down being pushed around and ready to stand up for herself.
The bus driver thus contacted the police, leading to Mrs. Parks’ arrest. For ignoring her superiors, Parks was subsequently convicted of violating the segregation laws and was fined ten dollars, as well as being required to pay four dollars to the court (Shipp).
This amount of money is equivalent to approximately 125 dollars at current times. To the colored community of Montgomery and surrounding areas, this arrest simply served as a reminder of the real issue segregation had become. Many had seen Rosa Parks as one of the most respected ladies of Montgomery at that time. Following Mrs. Parks arrest was a 381 day bus boycott led by African-Americans in the area and elsewhere (Carson).
People of color, accompanied by some caucasians, chose to non violently protest the law of segregation on busing systems. They did everything possible to avoid utilizing the public busing. According to statistics, “Nearly 40,000 people walked, some more than 20 miles” (Shipp). Their decision challenged the Jim Crow law (Shipp).
This eventually resulted in The Supreme Court’s decision in early Winter of 1965, that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional (Applebome). It is believed that Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rose to fame as a result of his own cooperation with Mrs. Parks following her release from jail (Carson). A photo of Mrs.
Parks and a white man has become extremely popular in use of civil rights activism. The photo was taken on December 21, 1956 after the Montgomery victory was announced, as many others were (Applebome). It would continuously represent the first day of racial integration on public buses. The photo has been posted nearly everywhere, including on almost all buses in New York City, which serves as an invitation to not only remember, but also reflect (Applebome). To conclude, Mrs. Parks’ decision sparked a protest that would further become a symbol of the time period.
Rosa Parks’ involvement in civil and human rights activism positively affected the country. As stated in a book review of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, “Parks clearly warrants greater attention to her life of activism rather than to a single heroic act” (Carson). Rosa served as a secretary on the Montgomery Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and as a member of the Detroit branch, once moving there in her later life (Carson).
As a member, Mrs. Parks founded the Montgomery NAACP Youth council. She also took personal time to interview and gather information from victims of discrimination for the NAACP’s use in records and their cases for equality. While both members of the association, Mrs. Parks worked with E.D. Nixon, one of the most influential leaders in the black community, to strictly challenge criminal and social justice issues (El-Kati).
Parks and Nixon became popular speakers at court hearings and trials. The two, along with other members, secretly raised money for the protection of the Scottsboro Boys during their trial. On the reverse, Parks and Nixon also worked to gain justice for African-American women who had been sexually assaulted. The women were unable to get justice for themselves as a result of their color. For some time following the Civil Rights Movement, Mr. and Mrs. Parks struggled economically until 1965 (Carson). To try to help their own struggles, the couple moved to Detroit, Michigan where Rosa was hired by Congressman John Conyers as his secretary (Carson).
“There are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of a nation,” Mr. Conyers said in a statement, “and Rosa Parks is one of those individuals.” (Shipp) While under this employment, Mrs. Parks was exposed to and further able to acknowledge the need of housing for homeless Detroit residents; whom she, in response to, found housing for. Congressman Conyers enabled Parks to attend speaking engagements with him, at which she embraced the opportunity to continue expressing her beliefs in civil rights (Carson). Rosa also served on the Board of Advocates for Planned Parenthood. In late 1987, The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development was co-founded by Mrs.
Parks (“Rosa Parks”). Longtime friend of Rosa Parks, Elaine Steele, was the other co-founder. Partially founded in honor of Rosa’s late husband, the institute began with a multitude of goals targeting youth ages eleven to seventeen. The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute continues to follow the couple’s beliefs to support and encourage youth and guide them to a proper education. It also works to eliminate discrimination in the United States, as well as in other denominations.
Finally, Rosa Parks strongly changed social and civil interactions between members of Montgomery. Rosa Parks’ legacy had a significant impact on the society of the United States. In the final years of her life, Rosa became a published author to record her personal thoughts of her life story and achievements. Two of her published works are short autobiographies, written during separate stages in her life, which discuss from around her birth until later in life. She co-wrote a children’s storybook, I Am Rosa Parks. The book was written with intentions to teach youth about her storyline and the event which she helped to spark. Another book, which was co-written by Mrs. Parks, was targeted to advise youth, and even adults on how to be courageous and to fight for what they truly believe.
Rosa also contributed many forewords, and information to a large number of other various authors. Nearing the end of her life, Parks stated she had “hoped to inspire others, especially young people, to be dedicated enough to make useful lives for themselves and to help others” (Shipp). She has been given nicknames such as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” (“Rosa Parks”). Parks also received both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal for her accomplishments in civil rights (Shipp). Each of these awards are knowingly the highest civilian awards. Bill Clinton presented her with these medals in 1996. In effort to fully recognize the outcomes of her actions on choices, The New York Times noted that “The eulogists of Parks’ funeral included former President Bill Clinton, and future presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton” (Carson). As an example of the many events which have taken place to remember Parks’ commitment, on the fiftieth anniversary of the start of her movement “The Metropolitan Transportation Authority asked riders on thousands of buses to remember Mrs.
Parks by keeping the seat behind the driver empty” (Ramirez). A majorly known award is the annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award, sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (“Rosa Parks”). Numerous sections of interstates, and buildings have been dedicated in Mrs. Parks’ honor as well. Lastly, Mrs. Parks personal contributions made great impact.
Rosa Parks impacted society with her background significance, her social and civil rights significance and legacy significance. Mrs. Parks has definitely been made known to be a major historical figure. Through her strength, she was able to assist in transforming a people’s perspective on culture.
Without her contributions, America may not have progressed to the stages it is in today.