Monday, December 1, 2014



Montgomery, Alabama (JFK+50) Fifty-nine years ago today, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, now acknowledged as 'the mother of the civil rights movement,' was arrested here in Montgomery for violation of the city's segregation code, Chapter 6, Section 11.

Ms. Parks, on her way home from work, boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus in downtown Montgomery at 6 p.m.  She sat five rows back in the first row reserved for African-Americans.

When the bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, driver James Blake ordered Ms. Parks and three other black passengers to give up their seats to the boarding white passengers. While the other passengers followed Blake's directions,  Rosa Parks did not.

Rosa Parks and MLK
 Montgomery, AL (1955)
 US Information Agency Photo

Rosa later recalled...

"When that white driver stepped back toward us...and ordered us out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night."

Mr. Blake called the police and Ms. Parks was arrested, taken to jail, and charged.  Ironically, it was the same driver who had put Rosa Parks off his bus in 1943.

When JFK+50 visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, we learned that Mrs. Park's action was not the first of its kind in the city and that she had training in non-violent protest. 

Rosa was trained at the Highlander Folk School which specialized in the training of activists for worker's rights and later civil rights. The school was founded by Myles Horton and board members included Eleanor Roosevelt.

While Rosa Parks was "prepared" to do what she did, it was she who decided when it was time to do it.

That time came on the first day of December, 1955.

Rosa said after the years passed that some people claimed she was "tired" on that day, but, in her own words, she was just "tired of giving in."

Cleveland Avenue Bus
Henry Ford Museum Source: Eege Fot vum

Rosa Parks was found guilty of violating segregation laws, given a suspended sentence and fined $10 plus $4 court costs.

The arrest and sentencing of Rosa Parks led directly to establishment of the Montgomery Improvement Association by Rev. Ralph Abernathy and other ministers.  They chose Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its president.

One week later, Rev. King said...

"There comes a time that people get tired.  We...are tired of being segregated and humiliated, tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression."


"We Shall Overcome:  The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened," by Herb Boyd, Sourcebooks Inc., Naperville, IL, 2004.