On December 1, 1955, Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was arrested for civil disobedience for violating Alabama State segregation laws.
The events of that evening on board a Montgomery City bus led the United States Congress to call Rosa Parks “the first lady of civil rights.”
At around 6 p.m. a 42-year-old African American seamstress boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus to return home after work.
She sat in the middle of the vehicle, a row behind the ten seats reserved for whites only.
Gradually all the seats on the bus were taken.
Another white man got on the bus and in keeping with standard segregation practices the driver, James F Blake, demanded that all four Afro-Americans sat behind the white section give up their seats to allow the white man to sit down.
Rosa Parks, an active member of the local NAACP, refused to move.
She was arrested under the Jim Crow laws and convicted in a 30 minute trial. Parks appealed and in so doing challenged the legality of segregation.
Edgar Nixon, the president of the Montgomery chapter of NAACP
, met with Jo Ann Robinson, an Alabama State College professor, and it was decided that a Montgomery bus boycott must take place.
On Sunday, December 4, 1955, the plan was announced at church services in the area and a front page article in the Montgomery Advertiser spread the word.
The die was cast and the boycott would last until Afro-Americans were treated with courtesy, black drivers were hired and seating distributed on a first come first serve basis.
Writing later in his book ‘Stride Toward Freedom’
Martin Luther King wrote “Actually, no one can understand the action of Ms Parks unless they realise that eventually the cup of endurance runs over, and the human personality cries out, ‘I can take it no longer.’
On the December 21, 1956, Montgomery’s public transport system was legally integrated.
Although Rosa Parks was not the first to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus her defiance ignited the matchstick in the powder barrel.
After decades involved in the Civil Rights Movement Rosa died on October 24, 2005.