It would have been just an ordinary December evening had not the bus 2857 become overcrowded so that the newly boarded passengers at the stop on the way to Cleveland Avenue in Montgomery, Alabama had not have the place to sit down. The new, white passengers. It was only logical, that evening in December, that the driver simply asks a lady in her forties, a seamstress on her way back home after a long day at work:
– Are you going to stand up? – to which she calmly responds:
Boarding the bus in Montgomery, AL
The year is 1955. December 1st, 1955. The lady is Rosa Parks.
There were three other passengers in the same row. Upon being asked for the second time, they reluctantly obliged. All of them. The humble lady just remained seated. She will write later in her Autobiography:
“As I sat there, I tried not to think about what might happen. I knew that anything was possible. I could be manhandled or beaten. I could be arrested. People have asked me if it occurred to me then that I could be the test case the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] had been looking for. I did not think about that at all. In fact if I had let myself think too deeply about what might happen to me, I might have gotten off the bus.”
This simple act of bravery was just the first in many to come… indeed, it took extraordinary courage for her to stand by her decision in the minutes, days and years that followed.
She will later describe it by saying:
“When I made that decision, I knew that I had the strength of my ancestors with me.”
And indeed there was the strength, serenity and decisiveness of many years of segregation and mistreatment that boiled in her that evening, which made her stand up to her, seemingly instant, decision.
“The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed, I suppose. I had decided that I would have to know, once and for all, what rights I had as a human being, and a citizen.”
This simple yet extraordinary bold act of courage will inspire the Montgomery bus boycott led by young Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The boycott will last for 381 days and cause significant losses to the transit system, as African Americans constituted 70% of bus ridership. Luther King would often say: “some of us must bear the burden of trying to save the soul of America“, and could not be more right when saying:
“The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right.”
The civil rights movement
Rosa Park’s defiance of an unfair segregation law forever changed the race relations in the United States. The Montgomery bus boycott led the U.S. Supreme Court to outlaw racial segregation on public buses in Alabama. This was the beginning of The civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. – the movement that will prompt the laws against racial segregation, the most prominent the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
That distant evening on December 1st, 1955, Rosa Parks’ simple act of extraordinary courage will ignite what will become one of the greatest social revolutions in modern American history.
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”
Thank you, Rosa Parks.