Civil Rights Movement in America gained national dominance in the 1950s (Wilson, 2013 p 55).The faction was founded on the efforts of black slaves who had spent centuries fighting for the abolition of slavery and racial discrimination. Though slaves in America were emancipated due to the Civil War and given fundamental civil rights, struggles to obtain state protection for their rights continued in the following century. By using non-violent opposition, the civil rights coalition stopped the trend of public facilities being offered on race segregation basis and gained the most significant success in equal-rights laws for black people since the period of Reconstruction. Even though the 1964-1965 passage of relevant legislation for civil rights was successful for the faction, by then, aggressive black activists had started to consider their fight as a liberty or freedom organization not only seeking reforms for civil rights, but rather facing and enduring cultural, political and economic outcomes of past racial oppression (McGuire and Dittmer 101). Rosa Parks may not have started the protests that formed the civil rights Movement however her courage and strength inspired many African-American activists to stand up more courageously against segregation.
The Rosa Park Event
When Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat for a white passenger in a city bus at Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, she contributed in establishing the Civil Rights faction in America (Wilson 62). The heads of the local African-American community arranged for a bus boycott which started the moment Parks got a conviction for contravening the segregation laws. Organized by the young Martin Luther King, the boycott continued for over a year (McGuire and Dittmer 111). During this time, Parks lost her employment, and it was only called off when the American Supreme court pronounced that bus segregation was unlawful. During the following 50 years, she gained national recognition a symbol of strength and dignity in the fight to end racial discrimination.
The Montgomery bus boycott happened on the first day of December 1955. This event is among the highly acknowledged civil rights movements within America. The boycott was a protest of civil rights during which blacks declined to travel on 60 buses in Montgomery, Alabama, in protest of segregation of seats. There had been earlier incidences of racial discrimination or boycott. However, civil rights activists used this particular boycott as fuel to provide the movement greater power. It is also considered as the first wide-ranging American protest against segregation. A few days to the boycott, Rosa Parks, had been arrested and convicted for refusing to offer her seat on the bus to a white passenger. When the ruling from the Supreme Court ruling finally ordered the integration of bus system in Montgomery, Martin Luther King who was leading the boycott became a notable leader of the civil rights movement in the US. Jo Ann Robinson representing the Women’s Political Council (WPC), and Edgar Nixon representing the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people became the first group and people to see the prospect of employing Rosa Park’s event to assemble more individuals participating in the battle for equality (McGuire and Dittmer 133).
The bus boycott took place in Montgomery. Discrimination based on race was pervasive in this city, and the maltreatment of white people over African-Americans was very rigid. Those involved in the event include Rosa Parks a black woman who belonged to the NAACP, a bus driver of white origin, James F. Blake and three black bus drivers.
On that evening, Rosa Parks chose to snub the ordinance of the city bus by declining to leave her bus seat to a white man. As the bus filled up, the driver Mr. Blake returned the sign, which separates the “colored seats” from the “white seats.” He wanted to make the blacks stand and give the white people more seats. After he returned the sign, Blake then requested the four black Americans to rise and return to their new places, seek to which Rosa Parks dismissed and remained on her seat while the other three passengers obeyed. She bravely stayed in her position. She is quoted saying, “You must never fear your actions when you are right” (Linde 15). Following city rules, Blake chose to have Parks arrested following her repeated refusals to vacate her seat.
Why the Event Occurred
The apparent and straightforward reason that drove Rosa Parks to violate the law on that day is that she was “fed up with giving in.” She said, “People often say I failed to give up my seat because I was tired. However, that is false; my being tires was not physical, the only tires I was tired of giving in” (Linde 19). In the 1950s, racial discrimination and tension were disturbingly oppressive and high. Bus ordinance at Montgomery did not give powers to a bus driver to forcefully vacate passengers from their seats. However, due to the racial discrimination, city bus drivers chose to display the “colored sign” whenever they pleased to please white passengers. According to history, a group of individuals can only be subjugated for so long until they seek insurgency. Following decades of false freedom and oppression, activists such as Rosa Parks found that being killed or physically arrested was a better choice than living like an object. According to Parks, refusing to obey the bus ordinance served well to confront the discriminatory laws of the city. She said, “I believe we are all here on planet earth to live, grow and do what we can make the world a better place for every person to enjoy freedom” (Linde 29). She wanted to change to avoid further occurrences of “Emmett Till” events. Following the arrest of Park, another civil rights activist paid her bail on that day. The occurrence did not worsen to lead to physical aggression. However, it was strong enough to start boycotting buses throughout in all the cities across the country. The activists realized that this kind of outcry could be mighty in their search for equality.
The Significance of the Event
The event sparked more outcries against the segregation. The Parks bus boycott event did not immediately alter the bus laws, nor did it amend the legislation itself. However, as described by Dr. Luther King, it was the reason behind the outcry and the community of African-Americans received the required strength to succeed. A day after Parks’ arrest, Edgar Nixon and Jo Ann called for a bus boycott lasting one day in Montgomery (McGuire and Dittmer 141). They encouraged the blacks to avoid buses and seek alternatives means of transport like walking, carpooling and cabs. Neither Nixon nor Robinson imagined the boycott to succeed considering that ninety percent of blacks used the bus to travel on a daily basis.
The Rosa Parks event had a profound impact on the society as it led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Over 70% of all Montgomery bus drivers were black. Following Parks’ actions, nearly over ninety percent of black drivers took part in the boycott and refused to ride buses. The boycott which began on December 5th, 1955 lasted for 381 days. The event also influenced the popularity of Martin Luther King. Rosa Parks is considered as the King’s ladder to success in the movement of civil rights (Wilson 77). He gave his first speech on December 5th, 1955, calling for the bus boycott at Montgomery in response to Parks’ arrest. Approximately 5,000 people were present as he delivered the speech. Compared to the 1963’s Martin Luther’s March on Washington and “I Have a Dream,” over 200,000 people attended the speech. The increase in number indicates that he had become more popular.
The event also affected segregation laws. During the 1950s, various states had varying rules of segregation. In some, discrimination was illegal; others had no particular legislation, while those in the South required exclusion. Alabama State, where Rosa Parks stayed, was segregated (Wilson 126). By violating the segregation law in the buses, she took the initial step of repealing the entire rules of segregation in America. Partially because of Parks, discrimination is illegal in all the states today.
The event impacted the economy of the country. The boycott affected the circular movement of the economy by preventing the city from making income from public transportation. African-Americans were the key participants, while over 70% of bus riders were also black. Households were also economically affected since those no longer riding in buses saved more money to better care for their homes. On the other hand, those who lost their jobs as drivers due to the boycott could no longer support their families well. It also economically affected the government because people were refused to ride buses that were funded by the Montgomery local government. Businesses were also affected by that gas stations increase their sales to many people who now chose to drive rather than ride the buses. This way, companies received a boost during the bus boycott.
The Legacy of the Event
When Rosa Parks declined to leave her bus seat to a white passenger, she started the non-violent tone employed by Martin Luther King during his non-nonviolent methods of protest which left an outright legacy for civil rights activists as well as their resistance against the laws of Jim Crow (Wilson 131). The 1960s Civil Rights Movement including the Freedom Riders and Woolworth Sit-ins were designed on the tactic and style of non-violence of King and Parks. By sparking the boycott, she contributed enormously towards creating international awareness of the civil rights struggle and the unfortunate situation of African Americans. She meant to leave a legacy when she said, “I want to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free so that other people would also receive free” (Linde 37). In his book Stride toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, King asserts that Parks’ arrest just escalated but was not the major reason for the protest. He states “The reason sits deep within the record of related injustices. No one can comprehend the action of Rosa Parks unless they realize that finally, the endurance cup runs over, while the personality of human cries out, ‘I can no longer take it’.” There are numerous books in the library about the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, the bus boycott, and Rosa Parks. On the anniversary of her courageous act of resistance, people are encouraged to read the story on the peaceful demonstration of determination, dignity, and courage that is nationally acknowledged as the mother of today’s Civil Rights Movement.
It reaches a time in life when every person is faced with a choice to make and decide whether to move on or not. The moment one makes that choice, they begin a journey that may have been planned. Rosa parks made that kind of decision when she declined to leave her bus seat for a white passenger on a Montgomery bus in Alabama. She violated the bus ordinance laws, following which she was arrested, charged, and convicted. When the ruling from the Supreme Court ruling finally ordered the integration of bus system at Montgomery, Martin Luther King who was leading the boycott became a notable leader of the civil rights movement in the US. Rosa Parks managed to survive many of her peers and to witness the impact of Civil Rights activism personally. Four decades following the refusal to give up seats, she saw the end to legal segregation in the U.S and the rise of the middle and upper classes of black people. Today, African-Americans enjoy exceptional access to education and business opportunities. The Rosa Parks event left a legacy for a country she cherished, one that has advanced tremendously n its youthful existence but still struggles with similar dichotomies which are characteristic of her own life. She may not have started the protests that formed the civil rights Movement however her courage and strength inspired many African-American activists to stand up more courageously against segregation.
Linde, Barbara M. Rosa Parks. Gareth Stevens, 2012.
McGuire, Danielle L., and John Dittmer. Freedom Rights. University Press of Kentucky, 2011.
Wilson, Jamie Jaywann. Civil Rights Movement. Greenwood, 2013.