Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.
An international icon of resistance against racial discrimination, Rosa Parks will forever be remembered for her courageous stand against segregation in 1950s America. Born Rosa Louise McCauley, she was of African-American, Scots-Irish, and Cherokee-Creek descent. Very few people know that her grandparents were enslaved, but they fought back for their rights and freedom. She followed in their footsteps and continued the fight against unfair segregation laws. Rosa Parks was an indomitable symbol of equality and justice, and she took a stand against the way blacks were treated in the United States, and pledged for racial equality. She fought actively against discrimination all her life, and was honored as 'The First Lady of Civil Rights'.
Let's look into some details of her timeline and life history.
The Life of Rosa Parks
▶ 1913 - Rosa Parks was born to Leona (née Edwards) and James McCauley as Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on the 4th of February, 1913. Her mother was a teacher by profession, and her father was a carpenter. She had one brother, Sylvester McCauley, who was two years younger to her. As a child, Rosa was very tiny and suffered from long-term tonsillitis.
▶ 1917 - Rosa's parents separated and she moved with her mother to Pine Level, Alabama, just on the outskirts of Montgomery. She spent most of her childhood growing up on a farm with her maternal grandparents, her mother, and her younger brother. She studied at a rural school in Pine level, and was also home-schooled by her mother until she was eleven years old.
▶ 1924 - On the 23rd of August, 1924, Rosa was enrolled in Montgomery Industrial School for Girls (Miss White's School for Girls), a private, all-white institution. She used to walk to school, as the school bus services were reserved only for white students.
▶ 1928 - Rosa joined Booker T. Washington High School for her ninth grade education. But, her grandmother's health started deteriorating, so she had to drop out to attend to her ill grandmother, who passed away soon after. She rejoined school and graduated her ninth grade at the age of fifteen.
▶ 1929 - She continued with her secondary education for the 10th and 11th grades in Alabama State Teacher's College for Negroes, but had to drop out soon to take care of her mother who had fallen sick.
▶ 1932 - On the 18th of December, 1932, Rosa Louise McCauley married Raymond Parks. Rosa was just 19 years old when she got married. Raymond was a barber from Montgomery. He was an active member of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). This organization was formed to encourage people to use the legal facilities of the court and reinstate the rights of African-Americans in the judiciary system.
▶ 1934 - Rosa's husband urged her to complete her high school education. So, with her husband's support, she continued her studies and received her high school diploma at the age of 20, on the 21st of May, 1934.
▶ 1943 - In December 1943, Rosa decided to join her husband in the NAACP. She was appointed as the first woman secretary of NAACP, and held the post for twelve long years.
▶ 1944 - She got an opportunity to work in the Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama. Segregation was strictly prohibited here, and Rosa is said to be very inspired with this unsegregated colony. She worked as a seamstress and home-maid for a white couple―Clifford and Virginia Durr.
In 1944, as NAACP's secretary, Rosa looked into the case of a gang-rape victim, Recy Taylor. Taylor was an African-American from Abbeville, Alabama, who was gang-raped by 6 whites. Rosa Parks, with the help of other civil activists, formed an organization, the 'Committee for Equal Justice for Mrs. Recy Taylor'.
▶ 1945 - The blacks were discriminated on racial grounds, and were deprived of their voting rights. Rosa Parks had attempted thrice to avail her voting registration, and failed every time. On the 16th of March, 1945, she tried once more, and finally received the certificate that authenticated her as a voting citizen of America.
▶ 1955 - In August 1955, Rosa Parks met Martin Luther King, another influential civil rights activist. Parks and King together took a stand against racial discrimination and fought for the African-Americans.
On the 1st of December, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested by the Montgomery State Police, since she refused to vacate her seat in a segregated bus for a white citizen.
She was arrested for a day and taken to court for trial. The prosecution lasted for about half an hour, and she was booked for violation of Chapter 6 under Section 11 segregation law of the Montgomery city code. She was also charged a $14 fine. She was released the next evening after her employer, Clifford Duur, and the president of NAACP, Edgar Nixon, successfully bailed her out of jail. Rosa did not pay the $14 fine that was imposed on her.
Rosa's arrest triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement on the 5th of December, 1955, which lasted for 381 days.
On the 5th of December, 1955, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed, and Martin Luther King was appointed as its President. This organization was formed following the protests that arose due to her arrest.
▶ 1956 - January 1956 saw Rosa Parks lose her job at the Montgomery Fair departmental store. Raymond quit his job since he was not allowed to acknowledge of his wife or the boycott at the workplace.
African-Americans in Montgomery formed a majority of the population that rode the buses, and they refused to do so during the boycott. The transport sector incurred huge losses due to this.
Lawyers ruling on the Browder vs. Gayle presented the case regarding bus segregation laws to the United States Supreme Court. On the 17th of December, 1956, it passed a rule that said segregation was illegal and unlawful, and segregated buses were declared as unconstitutional.
On the 21st of December, 1956, the ban was lifted. There were no separate sections on buses from that day onwards. The Montgomery Bus Boycott had finally come to an end.
▶ 1957 - Rosa Parks and her husband were jobless, and had a hard time finding jobs in Montgomery. They finally decided to shift base to Hampton, Virginia, where Rose started working as a hostess at an inn at the Hampton Institute.
After a few months, they relocated to Detroit, Michigan, to stay with her mother, brother, and his wife. Rosa started working as a seamstress until the year 1965.
▶ 1964 - She became the deaconess of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME).
▶ 1965 - Rosa was appointed as a receptionist-cum-secretary in John Conyers' office. John Conyers was the African-American U.S. Representative. Rosa dedicated 23 years of her life to this job.
▶ 1976 - The Government of Detroit honored Rosa Parks by renaming 12th Street as 'Rosa Parks Boulevard'.
▶ 1977 - On August 19, 1977, she lost her husband Raymond Parks to throat cancer. He was 74 years old.
In November that same year, she lost her brother Sylvester McCauley to cancer.
▶ 1979 - The NAACP, with which Rosa Parks had a long standing association, awarded her with their highest honor, the Springarn Medal.
Rosa's mother, Leona McCauley, suffering from cancer and chronic geriatric dementia, passed away in 1979.
▶ 1980 - The NAACP awarded her the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize, and Ebony's Services Award.
The December of 1980 marked the 25th anniversary of Rosa Parks' revolt against the bus segregation in Montgomery. Detroit Public Schools along with the Detroit News honored this historic event by launching the Rosa Parks Scholarship Foundation.
▶ 1983 - Rosa Parks was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.
▶ 1984 - She was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Women of Courage Award.
▶ 1986 - She was honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
▶ 1987 - In memory of her late husband, Rosa Parks established the 'Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self development', in partnership with Elaine Steele.
She was honored with two laurels in 1987―the Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award and the Roger Baldwin Award of the ALCU.
▶ 1988 - Rosa Parks quit her job as the secretary of Congressional President John Conyers' Detroit office, and retired from service.
▶ 1989 - The Neville Brothers honored her by writing a song 'Sister Rosa', based on her. The song was featured on their album Yellow Moon, and a music video for the same was also directed.
▶ 1990 - She was awarded the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Legislative Achievement Award.
▶ 1991 - The world's largest museum and research center, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., honored Rosa Parks by unveiling her bust.
▶ 1992 - Rosa Parks, under the guidance of Jim Haskins, published her autobiography, 'Rosa Parks: My Story'.
▶ 1994 - She was attacked at her Detroit residence on the 30th of August, 1994, by Joseph Skipper. Skipper was an African-American citizen and suffered from drug abuse. He physically assaulted Rosa and robbed her of $53. After almost a year, Joseph Skipper was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for 15 years. Skipper died in prison.
▶ 1995 - Rosa Parks published her memoir 'Quiet Strength', which threw light on the faith she had in life, and mentions some very important incidents of her life.
▶ 1996 - American President Bill Clinton presented her with the Medal of Freedom Award.
▶ 1997 - She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Public Transit Association.
▶ 1999 - She was awarded the highest civilian award that can be given to a US citizen―the US Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
She was cited as one of the 20 most influential people of the century by Time magazine.
Rosa Parks acted in a cameo role as herself in the television series Touched by an Angel. This was her last appearance on film, owing to her ill health conditions.
▶ 2000 - The Rosa Parks Library and Museum was inaugurated in her honor on the Troy University campus in Montgomery. It commemorated the 45th anniversary of Rosa Parks' arrest in Montgomery.
She was inducted into the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority as an honorary member.
She was awarded the Alabama Academy of Honor, and received the first Governor's Medal of Honor for Extraordinary Courage from her home state, Alabama.
Rosa Parks met Pope John Paul II in St. Louis. They mainly talked about racial healing, and Rosa asked for forgiveness.
She won the NAACP Image Award for her role as the best supporting actress in the television series Touched By An Angel, 'Black Like Monica'.
▶ 2001 - This was the year when the filming of 'The Rosa Parks Story' began in Montgomery.
▶ 2002 - "The Rosa Parks Story" was aired for the first time on the 24th of February, 2002.
In the same year, the Los Angeles Government honored her by naming a portion of the Interstate 10 freeway after her.
At the age of 89, Rosa Parks had become frail and weak. Her finances were affected, since she could no longer work and earn for herself. In 2002, her landlord sent her an eviction notice, as she had failed to pay the rent of $1,800 for the past few months. By the end of 2004, considering her age and inadequate health, the owners of the apartment decided to let her stay rent-free for the rest of her life.
▶ 2003 - Rosa Parks received the International Institute Heritage Hall of Fame Award from the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit (IIMD).
She was diagnosed with progressive dementia, and her health kept deteriorating.
▶ 2005 - On the 24th of October, 2005, Rosa Parks breathed her last as she battled for life against dementia at her Detroit home. She was 92 years old.
Rosa Parks once said, "Each person must live their life as a model for others", and she stood by her words right till the end. She has been an inspiration to many. She went through a lot of hardships while struggling for the freedom of an community, but never gave up. She also said, "you must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right". She stood up for what was right, and fought until justice was done. Her actions brought oneness in society, free of segregation, racism, and discrimination.