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Biographies Unit Biographies

Rosa Parks 1913–2005
Civil Rights Pioneer

Rosa Parks has been called the “mother of the civil rights movement.” In December 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to another passenger just because he was white. At the time, African Americans were forced to sit in the back of the bus, separate from other people.

Parks recognized the bus driver on that city bus. He had made her get off the bus 12 years earlier when she refused to enter through the back door. This time, he told her he would have her arrested if she did not give up her seat. Parks refused to move. He stopped the bus and had her taken to the police station.

Parks was a devoted church volunteer and a well-respected person in her community. She had never been arrested before. The African American community, led by a young preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr., supported her cause. African American bus riders in Montgomery stopped riding the buses for over a year. The bus company lost more than 70 percent of its business. In 1956, the United States Supreme Court declared that forcing African Americans to sit separately from other people on public transportation was illegal. Rosa Parks's single act of courage led to change for the whole country.

Comprehension Check

Why did Rosa Parks refuse to give up her seat on the bus?

Critical Thinking

Why was Rosa Parks willing to be arrested?