Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born on February 4, 1913. Parks was an African-American Civil Rights activist, whom the United States Congress called “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. Rosa’s birthday, February 4, and December 1, the the day she was arrested, have both become Rosa Parks Day.
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake’s order to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation. Others had taken similar steps who were arrested in Montgomery months before Parks was arrested. NAACP organizers believed that Parks was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience in violating Alabama segregation laws, although eventually her case became bogged down in the state courts.
Parks’ act of defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement. She became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders and Martin Luther King, Jr., a new minister in town at the time who gained national prominence in the civil rights movement. Parks was also active in the Black Power movement and the support of political prisoners in the US.
Parks, after retirement, wrote her autobiography and lived a private life in Detroit, Michigan. Parks received national recognition, including the NAACP’s 1979 Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and a posthumous statue in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman and second non-U.S. government official to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda.