By Emily Gresbrink
Thursday, January 12, 2012
In December 1955, a bus driver told Rosa Parks to move to the back as the bus filled with white Montgomery citizens – she refused politely and calmly. She ended up in jail. Nearly overnight, Parks, a seamstress and part-time secretary for the NAACP, became the “the mother of the Civil Rights movement.”
The Rosa Parks Museum and Library at Troy University in Montgomery, Ala., interactively tells the story of Montgomery’s bus boycott beginning in December of 1955. Tour guides at the library said during the 13-month period, black citizens of Montgomery elected not to ride the bus following the injustice Parks and all Montgomery blacks experienced.
The reaching impact of the non-violent protests led not only to the U.S. Supreme Court decision stating that bus segregation was illegal – but it caused a severe blow to the local economy. The bus company raised its fares from $0.10 to $0.45 in an effort to save a nearly bankrupt company.
The Encyclopedia of Alabama stated that black citizens used carpool systems operated by churches to travel around the city. Black leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., created the Montgomery Improvement Association, or MIA, to help with internal and external communications. Local businesses partook as “stops” for carpoolers – this continued for months as empty buses ran across town.
And this was all sparked by one woman.
Parks was widely commended for her dignified behavior while facing the racial separations in Montgomery during difficult times in Birmingham – still, she considered herself ordinary. She was a seamstress, wife, mother, and an educated woman. Parks was one of the everyday workers of the Civil Rights Movement.
While the same names – Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, The Scottsboro Boys, The Little Rock Nine, are often considered the heros of the time, behind those “big names” of the movement was the real driving force that pushed forward peaceful protests and the fight for equality: citizens.
And they still are fighting for rights today – as a matter of fact, in 2011 the protestor was named TIME’s person of the year.
One of the original Freedom Riders, Charles Person, spoke to students during the trip and issued a call to action and encouraged all citizen protestors of social injustice.
“Get on the bus,” he said. If you feel strongly about an issue,he added, take a stand while you have the chance and do what’s right.
The mother of the Civil Rights movement got on the bus, stayed strong and ended up starting a movement.