Civil rights champion Rosa Parks dies

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Obituary: Rosa Parks

It was a small act of defiance, but Rosa Parks' refusal, as a black woman, to give up her bus seat to a white man, would change the course of American history.


On 1 December 1955, the 42-year-old seamstress, and member of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was sitting on a bus when a white man demanded to take her seat.

"Are you going to stand up?" the bus driver, James Blake, asked.
"No," she answered.

"Well, by God," the driver replied, "I'm going to have you arrested."
"You may do that," Mrs Parks responded.

At that time, the southern states' rigid segregation laws, which had been in force since the end of the Civil War in 1865, demanded separation of the races on buses, in restaurants and other public areas.

Huge legacy

Even in the North, generally regarded as liberal, blacks were barred, by law, from many jobs and neighbourhoods.

Found guilty of breaking the law which required black people to give up their bus seats to whites, Rosa Parks was fined $14.

Mrs Parks was not the first person to defy the law. Two black women, Claudette Colvin and Mary Louise Smith, had already been arrested for the same offence.

It was a local civil rights leader, ED Nixon, who decided to give Rosa Parks his backing as a standard-bearer of the civil rights movement.

As he said later: "Mrs Parks was a married woman, she was morally clean, and she had fairly good academic training...

"I would probably have examined a dozen more (cases) before I got there, if Rosa Parks hadn't come along, before I found the right one."

'Like any other day'

Her arrest led to a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system, organized by a then unknown Baptist minister, one Reverend Martin Luther King.

This spawned the mass movement which culminated in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and an end to segregation.

"At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this," Mrs Parks recalled. "It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in."

She was born Rosa Louise McCauley on 4 February, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Family illness interrupted her high school education, but she graduated from the all-African American Booker T Washington High School in 1928, and attended Alabama State College in Montgomery for a short time.


After marrying Raymond Parks in 1932, she became involved in the NAACP, where she gained a reputation as a militant and a feminist and was the driving force in campaigns to encourage black voter registration.

But Rosa Parks' fame brought its own burdens. Unable to find work in Alabama, and after a number of threats had been made against her, she and her husband moved to Detroit, where a street and a school were named after her.

From 1965 until her retirement in 1988, she worked as an aide to Congressman John Conyers. Widowed in 1977, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development a decade later, to develop leadership among Detroit's young people.

But she later became worried that younger black people were in danger of taking their rights for granted, saying that older African-Americans "have tried to shield young people from what we have suffered. And in so doing, we seem to have a more complacent attitude.

"We must double and redouble our efforts to try to say to our youth, to try to give them an inspiration, an incentive and the will to study our heritage and to know what it means to be black in America today."

In 1996, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom before being awarded the United States' highest civilian honour, the Congressional Gold Medal, in 1999.

Beyond this, Rosa Parks was an admirer of Malcolm X, a high-profile campaigner against apartheid in South Africa and an outspoken critic of continuing sexism in the civil rights movement.

"I am leaving this legacy to all of you," she said in 1988, "to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfilment of what our lives should be.

"Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die - the dream of freedom and peace."





Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/25 11:13:08 GMT
© BBC MMV
 

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Rosa Parks set to 'lie in honour'

Rosa Parks set to 'lie in honour'

The body of civil rights icon Rosa Parks is set to lie in honour in the US Capitol Rotunda - the first time that a woman has received the tribute.

The US Senate voted on Thursday to allow the move and Congress is set to approve the decision on Friday.

The text of the Senate resolution said that the honour should allow US citizens "to pay their last respects to this great American."

Ms Parks died at her Detroit home on Tuesday at the age of 92.
Her 1955 refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus prompted a mass black boycott of buses, organised by Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr.

Allowing Mrs Parks to lie in honour here is a testament to the impact of her life on both our nation's history and future.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist
Ms Parks' actions inspired the mass movement which culminated in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and an end to segregation.

'Brave act'

Lying in honour is a tribute usually reserved for presidents and soldiers.
Presidents Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy are among the US leaders to have received the honour.

World War II General Douglas MacArthur and the bodies of several unknown soldiers have also been given the tribute.

"Rosa Parks' brave and simple act ignited a movement that rewove America's social fabric," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said.

"Allowing Mrs Parks to lie in honour here is a testament to the impact of her life on both our nation's history and future."

Her remains will lie in the Capitol Rotunda on Sunday and Monday.

Ms Parks was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honour, three years later.





Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/10/28 11:21:42 GMT
© BBC MMV
 

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US holds funeral for rights icon

Thousands of people have gathered to pay their respects at the funeral of US civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who died last week aged 92.


Former US President Bill Clinton led the tributes at the ceremony in Detroit, Michigan, her home since 1957.

Also among the mourners were civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and the signer Aretha Franklin.

Mrs Parks' refusal to give up her seat on an Alabama bus to a white man led to the end of legal segregation.

Earlier this week, thousands filed past her coffin as she lay in state in Alabama and then Washington.

'Grace and dignity'

Hundreds of politicians and other dignitaries, along with 2,000 members of the public, are attending the service in the 4,000-seat Greater Grace Temple church.

Audience members held hands and sang the civil rights anthem We Shall Overcome, as family members filed past the open casket before it was closed.



Opening the service, Bishop Charles Ellis III said: "Mother Parks, take your rest. You have certainly earned it."

Referring to Mrs Parks' decision not to give up her bus seat to a white man, Mr Clinton said that "in that simple act, and a lifetime of grace and dignity, [Rosa Parks] showed us every single day what it means to be free".

The daughter of Rev Martin Luther King Jr, Rev Bernice King, also spoke at the service.

The Rev Jesse Jackson will deliver the eulogy before Mrs Parks is buried in a Detroit cemetery.

Flags will fly at half-mast and the first seat on buses in Montgomery, Alabama, and in Detroit will be left empty in her memory.

First woman

After her death, hundreds of mourners, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also attended a memorial service in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mrs Parks' body was then moved to the Rotunda on Capitol Hill in Washington, where more long lines of people queued to pay their respects.

She was the first woman to receive the honour usually reserved for presidents, and only the second African-American.

Mrs Parks' mahogany casket was them taken into the rotunda of Detroit's Charles H Wright Museum of African-American History.

Mrs Parks' refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery prompted a mass black boycott of buses, organised by Rev Martin Luther King Jr.
The movement culminated in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and an end to segregation, but not without cost to Mrs Parks, who was forced to leave Alabama for Detroit as a result of a hate campaign.





Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/11/02 18:34:31 GMT
© BBC MMV
 
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