December 1, 2018

Rosa Parks - This Day in History


AP Photo

This day in history, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man.

Imagine that moment. She was a passenger on a segregated bus, blacks in the back, when the driver yells for her to give up her seat. In that split second she chose to say, “No.” Knowing she was breaking Montgomery, Alabama’s bus segregation law. But also knowing that local civil rights leaders were planning to challenge the racist law.

Rosa Parks was a seamstress. A member of the local chapter of the NAACP. She was woman trying to live a decent life who made the split second decision to do something to make it better. To take a stand by not giving up her seat.

I can only imagine how much she shook inside while the white man (men?) bellowed at her. I would suppose he demeaned her by calling her names and pointing out her inferior status. I also suppose it might not have been the first time in her life that she was demeaned. It would hardly be the last, regardless of the change her last moment decision brought. She was arrested for her refusal to give up her seat, so that means the tension stayed on that bus, directed at her for however long it took them to contact authorities and for the police to arrive. It probably escalated. During that time, she surely second guessed her decision. Maybe even considered apologizing and letting it defuse. Yet, she stood strong. She dug in her heels and she refused to give in.

Her arrest prompted a bus boycott, which began on Decemer 5. Despite the fact that they didn’t have social media to spread the word, the boycot was wildly successful. And it lasted almost a year. Seventy percent of Montgomery’s riders were black, so the boycott nearly devastated the public transportation system. But finally the Supreme Court ended Montgomery’s bus segregation laws and Rosa Parks was among the first passengers on the desegregated bus system.

Rosa Parks died in 2005. The US Senate passed a resolution to honor her by allowing her body to lie in state in the US Capital Rotunda.

A seamstress. From Montgomery, Alabama. Who made a split decision to stand up for herself and others like her who were being wronged under the law.