Considered an iconic figure of the Civil Rights Movement, the actions of Rosa Parks on December 1, 1955 live on, long after her October 24, 2005 death, at age 92. While most people likely know that she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alabama, here are five facts about Rosa Parks you may not know.
1. First Encounter With Bus Driver Was Not December 1, 1955
Segregation on city busses required that black riders enter through the front door to pay their fare, then get off the bus and re-enter through the back door.
In 1943, James Blake ejected Rosa Parks from his bus after she refused to get off and re-enter through the rear door. History Channel quotes statements Rosa Parks made in her autobiography about Blake. She stated, “I never wanted to be on that man’s bus again,” continuing, “I didn’t want any more run-ins with that mean one.”
2. She Did Not Intend To Start The Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa knew that the NAACP wanted to find a lead plaintiff to test the constitutionality of the Jim Crow Law, which segregated blacks and whites in “separate but equal” status.
However, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, she did not intend that her action would turn into that case. Upon her release after NAACP president Edgar Nixon and long-time employer and friend, Clifford Durr paid her bail; Rosa met with Professor Jo Ann Robinson. The next day, over 35,000 copies of a flyer urging a bus boycott started the support that resulted in the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 381 days.
3. Found Guilty On Day 1 Of Bus Boycott
On December 5, 1955, day 1 of the bus boycott, the court found Rosa Parks guilty of violating segregation laws. CNN says that her attorney appealed the conviction “arguing the laws are unconstitutional.”
4. Her Name Was Not On The Case Challenging Bus Segregation
Edgar Nixon, Clifford Durr, Fred Gray and other activists discussed filing a lawsuit challenging bus segregation. Rosa Parks Facts says that the activists felt that Rosa Parks’ case was not ideal, given the criminal status of her case.
The activists, along with attorneys Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter, chose the cases of four African-American women who had recent disputes with the Montgomery bus system. The cases of Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald and Aurelia Browder challenged the constitutionality of bus segregation in Montgomery Alabama. Filed in U.S. District Court in February of 1956, Browder v. Gayle named Montgomery Alabama mayor, W.A. Gayle as defendant.
Federal judges ruled in June 1956 that bus segregation denied plaintiffs and other African-Americans “equal protection of the laws and due process of law secured by the Fourteenth Amendment.” In November 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court declared bus segregation unconstitutional.
5. Parks Was Among 20 Most Powerful And Influential Figures Of The Century
The “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” received numerous awards and recognition throughout her lifetime. Time Magazine named Rosa Parks one of the “20 most powerful and influential figures of the century” in 1999.