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Rosa Parks: Facts, Biography & Timeline

Instructor: Cirrelia Thaxton

Cirrelia is an educator who has taught K-12 and has a doctorate in education.

A great woman of all times, Rosa Parks is a celebrated historic figure whose contributions to society are still appreciated. Learn more about her life and efforts to assist the civil rights struggle in America.

Biographical Timeline of Rosa Parks

Born Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, Rosa Parks was the granddaughter of former slaves. Her father was James McCauley, a carpenter, and her mother was Leona McCauley, a schoolteacher. Her parents separated when she was two, and Rosa, her mother, and brother, Sylvester, went to live with her maternal grandparents in Pine Level, Alabama. Taught to read at an early age by her mother, Rosa attended a segregated school in Pine Level until she was 11. Then, she went to the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, a private school dedicated to liberal causes. Although she did well in academics, Rosa decided to leave secondary school and take care of her ailing grandmother.

By 1931, the 18-year-old Rosa married Raymond Parks, a member of the Montgomery branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). A barber by trade, Raymond Parks was an NAACP activist who influenced Rosa greatly. In 1943, Rosa herself worked as a secretary for Edgar Daniel Nixon, the Alabama president of the NAACP. In an interview, Rosa exclaimed, 'It was more a matter of trying to challenge the powers that be, and to let it be known that we did not wish to continue being second-class citizens.' Rosa also actively served as her NAACP chapter's youth leader.

Then, in 1955, Rosa Parks became immersed in the inequality of segregation. One day, she was riding one of Montgomery's segregated buses and refused to give up her seat in the reserved 'color' section to a white man. Arrested and taken to police headquarters, Rosa was set free from jail for a bond of $100. The arrest and incarceration of Rosa Parks became a rallying point for African Americans caught up in the abusive system of segregation. As a result, the black community organized a bus boycott to protest the unfair conditions on segregated buses. The bus boycott lasted for 381 days, ending successfully in 1956 when Montgomery officials unveiled the city's integrated bus lines.

Arrest Photo of Rosa Parks
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Despite the fact that she had been considered a great trailblazer in the African American community after standing up for her civil rights in Montgomery, Rosa Parks faced many obstacles in her later years. Both she and her husband lost their jobs and decided to leave the city for Detroit, Michigan in 1957. While there, Rosa worked as a seamstress until 1965, when she joined the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyer as a secretary and receptionist. Then, she helped to found the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in 1987, ten years after her husband's death. The mission of this organization was to provide citizens with bus tours that featured civil rights presentations and the Underground Railroad sites around the country.

Rosa Parks
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