Rosa Parks

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Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King (around 1955)

Rosa Louise Parks (* 4. February 1913 as Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee , Alabama ; † 24. October 2005 in Detroit , Michigan ) was an American civil rights activist . The African-American was on December 1, 1955 Montgomery in the US state of arrested Alabama because they had refused her seat on the bus for a white to clear passenger. This sparked the Montgomery bus boycott , which was alongside protests in the fallEmmett Till is considered to be the beginning of the black civil rights movement that brought about the end of the so-called "Jim Crow Laws" .

Childhood and youth

Rosa Parks was born in 1913 in Alabama , southern USA, and raised with her brother by her mother, a teacher, and grandparents. The father had left the family in 1915 and moved to the north . She worked as a seamstress for most of her life. She was tutored by her mother until she was eleven, after which she attended the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls and Booker T. Washington High School; both schools were strictly for African Americans. In 1932 she married Raymond Parks, a hairdresser who worked in the African American suffrage movement, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rosa Parks was a Methodist and a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church .

Civil rights activities

Parks started as a secretary at the NAACP in Montgomery in December 1943, working there alongside her job as a seamstress. The racial segregation was then pronounced in Montgomery; so there was B. Schools, park benches or elevators "Whites only" and "Coloreds only" (only for whites / blacks). The buses were also separate, but not entirely. There were four rows at the front reserved for whites, and there was a middle section that black people were allowed to use, but the entire row had to be vacated as soon as only one white passenger wanted to sit in that row.

The 2857 bus in which Rosa Parks was arrested; exhibited in the Henry Ford Museum

This is exactly what happened on December 1, 1955. A white passenger requested that the reserved row of seats be vacated in which Parks was located. The other people cleared the space, but the then 42-year-old refused because she did not want to stand through the rest of the journey. Bus driver James Blake then called the police and insisted on their arrest. Parks was arrested, charged, and fined $ 10 and $ 4 in court costs for disturbing public calm.

Partly in response to their arrest, Martin Luther King , a relatively unknown Baptist preacher at the time, organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott with his Montgomery Improvement Association , which later forced the authorities to desegregate buses and trains, and which triggered many other civil rights protests in America apply.

This made Rosa Parks an icon of the civil rights movement. At the same time, she was also the target of threats and constant phone calls that led to a nervous breakdown in her husband, Raymond Parks. The couple then moved to Detroit in 1957 . However, she remained active in the civil rights movement. In 1995 she was one of the speakers at the Million-Man March in Washington, DC

Discussions on Parks' role

Although few historians doubt Parks' contribution or her courage, some details of her story have been questioned and are being discussed further. Parks herself stated in her autobiography My Story that she wasn't just tired after her workday, as is often said, but that she was tired of constantly having to give in.

Some sources claim she deliberately sat on the “white” section of the bus to protest. In fact, however, the middle part of the bus was marked with “colored”, so it was sitting in the designated area, which, however, served as a buffer zone for the white passengers. That means, when Parks sat down there, these rows of seats in the middle of the bus were still designated as an area for "colored people", but as soon as the bus filled up and newly boarded white passengers could not find any more seats, the delimitation between passenger areas became wider Relocated to the back of the bus so that the black passengers in the buffer zone were asked to vacate their seats.

Rosa Parks wasn't the first African American woman to refuse to give up her seat for a white person. Irene Morgan had already done this eleven years earlier, thereby ensuring that interstate bus and rail transport was excluded from racial segregation. The Parks case became a milestone because it covered all racial segregation laws, not just interstate traffic.

The NAACP had previously considered lawsuits against the legislation in similar cases, but plaintiffs had not been able to withstand the tremendous pressure ( Claudette Colvin ), like eighteen-year-old Mary Louise Smith .

honors and awards

Rosa Parks with Bill Clinton
  • 1983: Inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame for her civil rights activism
  • 1996: President Bill Clinton presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom .
  • 1999: Congressional Gold Medal (Congressional Gold Medal of Honor), next to the Presidential Medal of Freedom , the highest civilian honor in the US
  • 2001: Opening of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama
  • 2005: Public laying out before her burial in the Capitol ; Parks was the first woman in the United States to receive this special honor. At the funeral, US President George W. Bush also ordered mourning flags.
  • 2008: Induced into the Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
  • The American Public Transportation Association declared December 1st a "Tribute to Rosa Parks Day". On this day, in her honor, the seat directly behind the driver should remain vacant in every bus.
  • The "Rosa Parks Bus" was acquired by the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn and restored with the help of a "Save America's Treasures" grant from the US federal government .
  • 2012: The responsible jury decided to rename the merged elementary school in Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg , Reichenberger Straße / Forster Straße, from the school year 2012/13 to “Rosa-Parks-Grundschule”
  • 2014: The asteroid (284996) Rosaparks was named after Rosa Parks at the suggestion of a team from astrophysicist Carrie Nugent
  • 2015: Opening of the RER - Rosa Parks station in Paris
  • 2016: The Detroit house where Rosa Parks lived from 1957 to 1959 was purchased by Park's niece Rhea McCauley in 2016 and donated to artist Ryan Mendoza to keep it from demolition. Mendoza had the house in Berlin-Gesundbrunnen rebuilt next to his studio.

1994 robbery

On August 30, 1994, 81-year-old Rosa Parks was mugged and robbed at her Detroit apartment. The perpetrator Joseph Skipper, himself an African American, knocked Parks to the ground, although he recognized her. He escaped with a smaller amount of money but was later caught. The case caused a stir and outrage across America.



Rosa Parks was immortalized in numerous songs, such as B .:

  • The Neville Brothers : Sister Rosa . A&M, 1989
  • James "JT" Taylor : Sister Rosa . MCA, 1989
  • Feargal Sharkey : Sister Rosa . Virgin, 1991
  • Nits : Sister Rosa . Columbia, 1998
  • OutKast : Rosa Parks . LaFace / Arista, 1998
  • Hannibal Lokumbe ( Hannibal Marvin Peterson ) Dear Mrs. Parks . Oratorio. Janice Chandler-Eteme, soprano; Jevetta Steele, mezzo-soprano; Kevin Deas, bass; Taylor Gardner, boy soprano; Rackham Symphony Choir, Brazeal Dennard Chorale; Detroit Symphony Orchestra ; Thomas Wilkins, conductor (The American spirit: Roots and transformations: Dear Mrs. Parks) Naxos CD 8.559668. First performance in February 2005 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center, Detroit , Orchestra Hall, with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Wilkins, conductor.

In 1999, Parks' attorney sued hip-hop band OutKast for using their name in the song Rosa Parks , but failed. In 2001 he tried again with the assistance of attorney Johnnie Cochran ; the proceedings were again dismissed, but reopened in 2003. In 2004, Parks 'relatives installed an impartial representative on their behalf, fearing that Parks' lawyers and carers were only looking for their own financial gain. Parks' niece, Rhea McCauley said:

“My aunt would never go to such lengths to hinder young artists in such a way. We as a family fear that in her last days our aunt will be surrounded by strangers who are just out to capitalize on her name. "

On April 15, Attorneys for Parks and OutKast announced they had reached an out-of-court settlement. In the course of this agreement, OutKast committed to participate in a CD homage for Rosa Parks.

In 2005, Aretha Franklin sang at Rosa Parks' funeral.


The 2001 racism drama Boycott takes up the events of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Likewise, the 2002 film The Rosa Parks Story refers to Parks' life story.

The third episode of the 11th season of the series Doctor Who (new series) Rosa is about the events of 1955.

Browser game

In November 2017, Rosa Parks dedicated a historical quest series to the browser-based strategy game Forge of Empires . While completing a series of tasks, the player was told Rosa Park's story. With the completion of the quest series he received her portrait, which he could assign to his character.


Web links

Commons : Rosa Parks  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A. Ramirez: New Yorkers Take a Stand Standing Up. In: The New York Times, December 2, 2005, p. B1.
  2. What If I Don't Move to the Back of the Bus? - Rosa Parks. Information about the Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum (English).
  3. 'Asteroid hunters' search for space rocks that could collide with Earth from a radio show on The Takeaway program on March 15, 2017
  4. (284996) Rosaparks in the Small-Body Database of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena , California (English)
  5. Gero Schliess: Why Rosa Parks' house now stands in Berlin. Deutsche Welle, April 7, 2017, accessed April 10, 2017 .
  6. Rosa Parks Robbed and Beaten . ( [accessed November 21, 2018]).
  7. 1994 Mugging Reveals Rosa Park's True Character in, accessed November 21, 2018.
  8. Assailant Recognized Rosa Parks in reading eagle, accessed November 21, 2018
  9. LOKUMBE, H .: Dear Mrs. Parks (Chandler-Eteme, Steele, Deas, Rackham Symphony Choir, Brazeal Dennard Chorale, Detroit Symphony, Wilkins). Accessed December 1, 2020 .
  10. Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin joins Jesse Jackson to Pay Tribute to Rosa Parks. Democracy Now !, November 3, 2005, accessed December 7, 2014 .
  11. ^ Boycott in the Lexicon of International FilmsTemplate: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used , accessed on November 14, 2014.
  12. Jump up ↑ Forge of Empires, Official Announcement: Historic Quest Line: Rosa Parks. Retrieved November 15, 2017.