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Rosa Parks: The Mother of Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement

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Rosa Parks: The Mother of Modern Civil Rights

Rosa Louise McCauley Parks is nationally recognized as the mother of the modern-day civil rights movement in America. She was not trying to start a movement. She was simply tired of the social injustice and did not think that a woman should be forced to stand so that a man could sit down. By refusing to surrender her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus on December 1, 1955, she set in motion a chain of events that were felt throughout the United States. Her quiet, courageous act changed America and redirected the course of history.

On February 4, 1913, a little girl by the name of Rosa Louise McCauley was born. She was born at a time when black people in the south often lived in fear. Rosa McCauley, also known as Rosa Parks, lived with her mother, brother, and grandparents. Her father left the family when she was young. They all lived on a small farm in Pine Level, Alabama, near the city of Tuskegee. When Rosa was eleven years old, she went to a private school for black girls in Montgomery, Alabama. Not many blacks were able to get a good education, but Rosa's mother wanted her daughter to be special. She had saved money for years for Rosa's schooling. There were free public schools in Montgomery, but Rosa was not allowed to attend them. Those schools were for whites only. "Whites only" was something that Rosa would hear for most of her life. She could not drink at a public water fountain that said "whites only". She could not buy a meal in a restaurant or see a show in a movie theater that was for "whites only". She could not ride in the first elevator to be installed in Montgomery. That elevator was for "whites only". When Rosa was nineteen years old, she fell in love with Raymond Parks, and they got married on December 18, 1932. "Raymond was born in Wedowee, Alabama, in 1903 who his mother was Geri Parks," proclaimed Reed (pg. 19). Three years later, she finally finished high school and received her diploma. "Her husband encouraged her to do so even though he had little education," said Dove (pg. 32). It had taken many years, but at last she had received an education. She felt special, just as her mother had wanted. Ten years after her graduation, Rosa did not feel so special. She felt beaten and tired.

Although the farm was small, it grew enough food to feed them all. Rosa worked in the fields with her grandfather helping him tend the crops. The days were warm and good. Even with a high school education, Rosa could only get jobs sewing. She worked for a while sewing for people at her home. Then she found a job as a seamstress in the dressmaking section of a department store. At the end of each long day of work, Rosa had to take a bus ride home. When Rosa joined the NAACP, she met a man named Edgar Daniel Nixon, also known as E.D. Nixon which help boycotted the bus ( 2003.). He was the president of the Alabama branch of the NAACP. E.D. Nixon was very impressed with Rosa Parks. Rosa had learned to type, and she was a good writer but she had never been allowed to use those skills in a job. E.D. Nixon asked her to be the secretary for the Alabama branch of the NAACP. At last, Rosa felt special. She was doing important work and she was doing it well. She wrote letters for the NAACP, set up meetings, and asked important people to speak. She helped many black people register to vote. One of Rosa's favorite jobs was working with the NAACP's youth group. This caused a great effect on her life.

At night, groups of white men would ride horses through small southern towns, shooting guns to scare the black residents. These men called themselves the Ku Klux Klan. Rosa's grandfather was not afraid of the Ku Klux Klan. When he heard the Klan riding in the night, he was ready. He kept a shotgun loaded by the door. But whenever little Rosa heard the galloping horses, she was afraid. "At that time, the schools in the South were segregated. Segregated in this case means that white children and black children were not allowed to go to the same school" (Halberstam, pg 12). Rosa and her brother went to a school where their mother taught. She was the only teacher with classes held in a small church. At one point, Rosa took the group to see the freedom train. This was a traveling exhibit designed to teach people about the freedoms that exist in America. When Rosa and the children got to the train, some people did not want them to go onboard. There were many white students from the public schools there. Normally, trains in the South were segregated, so that blacks and whites were not allowed in the same train cars together. Rosa Parks marched her students' rights up onto the freedom train. Many of the white teachers were unhappy about this, but the conductors on the train said Rosa's group could go in with the others. After all, the purpose of the train was to show that all Americans had equal rights. Rosa was learning that black people often had to insist upon their rights.

In Montgomery, schools were not the only thing that was segregated. Buses were segregated as well. Blacks and whites were not allowed to sit together. The front of the bus was for "whites only". But if the white seats were filled, and a white person got on the bus, the driver would often instruct a black person to stand so that the white person could sit down. In fact, as many as four black people had to stand if a white person wanted to sit, because blacks and whites could not even sit in the same row together. "Also, blacks were not allowed to walk through the front section of the bus. They had to pay the driver, then step off the bus and come in again through the back door", stated Evans (pg 4). This was a problem for Rosa, especially when she was tired. One day in 1943, she tried to go through the front section of the bus. The driver, James Blake, told her to get off and go through the back door. When she stepped off the bus, he drove away leaving her standing at the bus stop without her fare. Rosa was not the only person who was treated badly by a bus driver. Once, a bus was passing by a hospital when a young black soldier stepped out into the street. The bus driver had to brake to keep from hitting him. That made the driver very angry. When he braked and stopped, he stepped out of the bus and beat that soldier in the face with his metal ticket punch. Although the people on the bus could witness the incident, they were too afraid to do anything. This goes to show that the same rule that allowed a white person to sit down while a black person had to stand or kept a black person from using a "whites only" water fountain, allowed a white person to beat a black person almost to death



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