Rosa Parks, A Gentle Giant

By Maurice Weaver


Rosa Parks - Mini Bio

Rosa Parks was a woman of quiet strength and dignity who displayed incredible courage in the bastion of racial hatred in segregated America in the 1950s---Montgomery, Alabama---to spark a movement for change that liberated both the oppressed and the oppressors. Rosa Parks, branch secretary for the local NAACP, remained in her seat so never again African Americans would bow down. Her single act spearheaded the civil rights movement, which inspired people of goodwill, freedom fighters, and liberation movements across the globe, and served as a living testament to the power of one individual to make positive change in humanity's struggle for equality and justice.

Parks' act of defiance on December 1, 1955---refusing to give her seat to a White man on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus and subsequently arrested, fingerprinted and fined $14----galvanized the African-American community under the leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system. People walked to work, shop and school, carpooled, and used black-owned taxis, despite threats, bombs, and job firings. The boycott continued until December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision declaring unconstitutional the state and local laws segregating Montgomery buses.

The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement singular act did not occur in a vacuum. Often described as a quite seamstress, two decades earlier, working with her husband, Raymond Parks, a NAACP activist, Parks fought valiantly for the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, nine African-American men pulled off a train and falsely accused of raping two White women. They were found guilty and executed in 1931.

Rev. Willie T. Barrow, board member of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, considered Rosa Parks her mentor. The civil rights stalwart, affectionately known as "the little warrior" has toiled in the valley with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson. On that historic "Bloody Sunday"on the Edmund Pettis Bridge during the March to Selma, in the quiet before the storm when the Alabama state troopers prepared to use tear gas and police dogs on peaceful protesters, Barrow recalled, "In that quiet little voice, she kept saying, we're going to win. We're going to win."

And she won. After the bus boycott, the Parks family moved to Detroit where she worked as a staff assistant to U.S. Representative John Conyers Jr. In 1987, Parks helped found the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Improvement and received the Presidential Medal of Honor from Bill Clinton in 1999. In death, she became the first woman in U.S. history to lay in state Capitol Rotunda.

Barrow said Rosa Parks' life showed the power of one woman to change the world. Barrow has received condolences from well-wishers from as far away as France and South Africa. She hopes women see Rosa Parks as a motivating force for someone who earned the world's respect and gratitude simply by holding on to her convictions.