Rosa Parks Day celebrates the life of the activist who toiled on behalf of African-American civil rights. It is a state-level holiday in California and Ohio.
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Rosa Parks was born on 4 February 1913 in Tuskagee, Alabama, and died in 2005 at the age of 92 in Detroit, Michigan. She became renowned for her refusal, on 1 December 1955, to change bus seats to allow a white person to sit. This happened in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa was arrested and charged with a violation of the segregation law of the Montgomery City Code and was fined $10 plus court costs.
Rosa Parks said later, “I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”
In the days following the bus incident, other activists worked together to arrange a one-day bus boycott that urged all colored people to not use any Montgomery buses on Monday 5 December. The boycott ended up lasting 381 days. Seventy-five percent of passengers on the buses had been colored – approximately 40,000 – meaning that, by the time the boycott ended over a year later, the bus company was almost bankrupt. Many had to walk 20 miles per day as a part of the boycott.
Finally, in December 1956, segregation on public buses was described as unconstitutional and was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case called Browder v. Gayle.
Accidentally, Rosa Parks had become an icon of fairness for blacks in America. A new organization arose called the Montgomery Improvement Association, and the members elected their president – a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rosa Parks lived a simple life into old age; she nursed her husband, brother and mother through terminal cancers; she donated any speaker fees to civil rights causes; and, after death, she was the first U.S. person who had not been a government official to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.