Re: Millions of homeless and unemployed while Obama throws $170 mil...
- From: P-90@xxxxxxxxx (RS McCown)
- Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:27:47 -0800
"Initially she wasn't a leader. She had just gotten off of work and was
tired of standing so she sat where she wanted to sit and didn't care if
it was in place only for whiteys."
In 1932, Rosa married Raymond Parks, a barber from Montgomery, at her
mother's house. Raymond was a member of the NAACP, at the time
collecting money to support the Scottsboro Boys, a group of black men
falsely accused of raping two white women. After her marriage, Rosa took
numerous jobs, ranging from domestic worker to hospital aide. At her
husband's urging, she finished her high school studies in 1933, at a
time when less than 7% of African Americans had a high school diploma.
Despite the Jim Crow laws that made political participation by black
people difficult, she succeeded in registering to vote on her third try.
In December 1943, Parks became active in the Civil Rights Movement,
joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and was elected volunteer
secretary to its president, Edgar Nixon. Of her position, she later
said, "I was the only woman there, and they needed a secretary, and I
was too timid to say no." She continued as secretary until 1957. In the
1940s, Parks and her husband were also members of the Voters' League.
Sometime soon after 1944, she held a brief job at Maxwell Air Force
Base, a federally owned area where racial segregation was not allowed,
and rode on an integrated trolley. Speaking to her biographer, Parks
noted, "You might just say Maxwell opened my eyes up." Parks also worked
as a housekeeper and seamstress for a white couple, Clifford and
Virginia Durr. The politically liberal Durrs became her friends and
encouraged Parks to attendâ?"and eventually helped sponsor
herâ?"at the Highlander Folk School, an education center for
workers' rights and racial equality in Monteagle, Tennessee, in the
summer of 1955.
Like many black people, Parks was deeply moved by the
brutal murder of Emmett Till in August 1955. On November 27,
1955 â?" only four days before she refused to give up her
seatâ?"she later recalled that she had attended a mass meeting in
Montgomery which focused on this case as well as the recent murders of
George W. Lee and Lamar Smith. The featured speaker at the meeting was
T.R.M. Howard, a black civil rights leader from Mississippi who headed
the Regional Council of Negro Leadership.
Civil rights activism
Events leading up to boycott
See also: Homer Plessy and Plessy v. Ferguson
In 1944, athletic star Jackie Robinson took a similar stand in a
confrontation with a United States Army officer in Fort Hood, Texas,
refusing to move to the back of a bus. Robinson was brought before a
court-martial, which acquitted him. The NAACP had accepted and
litigated other cases before, such as that of Irene Morgan ten years
earlier, which resulted in a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on
Commerce Clause grounds. That victory, however, overturned state
segregation laws only insofar as they applied to travel in interstate
commerce, such as interstate bus travel, and Southern bus companies
immediately circumvented the Morgan ruling by instituting their own Jim
Crow regulations. In November, 1955, just three weeks before Parks'
defiance of Jim Crow laws in Montgomery, the Interstate Commerce
Commission, in response to a complaint filed by WAC Sarah Keys, closed
the legal loophole left by the Morgan ruling in a landmark case known as
Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. The ICC prohibited individual carriers
from imposing their own segregation rules on interstate travelers,
declaring that to do so was a violation of the anti-discrimination
provision of the Interstate Commerce Act. But neither the Supreme
Court's Morgan ruling nor the ICC's Keys ruling addressed the matter of
Jim Crow travel within the individual states.
Black activists had begun to build a case to challenge state bus
segregation laws around the arrest of a 15-year-old girl, Claudette
Colvin, a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery. On
March 2, 1955, Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from
a public bus when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. She
claimed that her constitutional rights were being violated. At the time,
Colvin was active in the NAACP's Youth Council, a group to which Rosa
Parks served as Advisor.
Seat layout on the bus where Parks sat, December 1, 1955.
Colvin recollected, "Mrs. Parks said, 'do what is right.'" Parks was
raising money for Colvin's defense, but when E.D. Nixon learned that
Colvin was pregnant, it was decided that Colvin was an unsuitable symbol
for their cause. Soon after her arrest she had conceived a child with a
much older married man, a moral transgression that scandalized the
deeply religious black community. Strategists believed that the
segregationist white press would use Colvin's pregnancy to undermine any
boycott. The NAACP also had considered, but rejected, earlier protesters
deemed unable or unsuitable to withstand the pressures of
cross-examination in a legal challenge to racial segregation laws.
Colvin was also known to engage in verbal outbursts and cursing. Many of
the legal charges against Colvin were dropped. A boycott and legal case
never materialized from the Colvin case, and legal strategists continued
to seek a complainant beyond reproach.
In Montgomery, the first four rows of bus seats were reserved for white
people. Buses had "colored" sections for black peopleâ?"who made up
more than 75% of the bus system's ridersâ?"generally in the rear of
the bus. These sections were not fixed in size but were determined by
the placement of a movable sign. Black people also could sit in the
middle rows, until the white section was full. Then they had to move to
seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Black
people were not allowed to sit across the aisle from white people. The
driver also could move the "colored" section sign, or remove it
altogether. If white people were already sitting in the front, black
people could board to pay the fare, but then had to disembark and
reenter through the rear door. There were times when the bus departed
before the black customers who had paid made it to the back entrance.
For years, the black community had complained that the situation was
unfair, and Parks was no exception: "My resisting being mistreated on
the bus did not begin with that particular arrest...I did a lot of
walking in Montgomery." Parks had her first run-in on the public bus on
a rainy day in 1943, when the bus driver, James F. Blake, demanded that
she get off the bus and reenter through the back door. As she began to
exit by the front door, she dropped her purse. Parks sat down for a
moment in a seat for white passengers to pick up her purse. The bus
driver was enraged and barely let her step off the bus before speeding
off. Rosa walked more than five miles (8 km) home in the rain.
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Main article: Montgomery Bus Boycott
Fingerprint card of Rosa Parks.
After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded
the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955,
in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in
the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the "colored"
section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the
ten seats reserved for white passengers. Initially, she had not noticed
that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her
in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of
the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third
stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers
In 1900, Montgomery had passed a city ordinance for the purpose of
segregating passengers by race. Conductors were given the power to
assign seats to accomplish that purpose; however, no passengers would be
required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded
and no other seats were available. Over time and by custom, however,
Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the practice of requiring black
riders to move whenever there were no white only seats left.
So, following standard practice, bus driver Blake noted that the front
of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three
men standing, and thus moved the "colored" section sign behind Parks and
demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle
section so that the white passengers could sit. Years later, in
recalling the events of the day, Parks said, "When that white driver
stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out
of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a
By Parks' account, Blake said, "Y'all better make it light on yourselves
and let me have those seats." Three of them complied. Parks said,
"The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn't move at the
beginning, but he says, 'Let me have these seats.' And the other three
people moved, but I didn't." The black man sitting next to her gave
up his seat. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up
to move to the newly repositioned colored section. Blake then said,
"Why don't you stand up?" Parks responded, "I don't think I should have
to stand up." Blake called the police to arrest Parks. When recalling
the incident for Eyes on the Prize, a 1987 public television series on
the Civil Rights Movement, Parks said, "When he saw me still sitting, he
asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he
said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police
and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.'"
During a 1956 radio interview with Sydney Rogers in West Oakland several
months after her arrest, when asked why she had decided not to vacate
her bus seat, Parks said, "I would have to know for once and for all
what rights I had as a human being and a citizen."
She also detailed her motivation in her autobiography, My Story:
â??People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was
tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired
than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although
some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No,
the only tired I was, was tired of giving in
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