The story of Rosa Parks has been retold time and time again and is recorded in our history books. But there is more to her life's story and not mentioning it does a disservice to the memory of a woman whose courageous act launched the Civil Rights Movement and a 381-day boycott of the bus system. An act that forever changed the lives of African Americans across the country-then and now.
On Monday, Oct. 24, this country lost one of the last pillars of the Civil Rights Movement, when at 92, Parks died of natural causes at her home in Detroit, MI.
In December 1955 Parks, who was 42 at the time, refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white male passenger. The bus driver had her arrested, after which she was tried and convicted of violating a local ordinance. The world will never forget Parks, who was considered the "mother of the civil rights movement" and one of the most important citizens of the 20th century.
In her book Quiet Strength, Parks explains that on that historic day she was physically tired, but no more than anyone else after a long day's work. Under normal circumstances, she would have given up her seat willingly to a child or elderly person. But on this day Parks was tired of the treatment she and other African Americans received every day of their lives-racism, segregation, and Jim Crow laws of the time.
"Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it," wrote Parks in her book. "I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents, and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others."
Parks recalled the humiliation: "I didn't want to pay my fare and then go around the back door, because many times, even if you did that, you might not get on the bus at all. They'd probably shut the door, drive off, and leave you standing there.
Several students and faculty within the Mills community took a moment to comment on Parks and the impact she had on their lives:
"I think she was absolutely a voice for women of color. I believe it would be impossible not to have her as a role model for women of color. When you think of the Civil Rights Movement, you think of Rosa Parks," said junior Ester Lucero.
"If it wasn't for her we [African Americans] wouldn't be here today," said associate professor Dr. Ajuan Mance.
"Here was this woman who had just been living her life, normal, unassuming, and then when a situation presented itself that could not be ignored, a situation that demanded action, she acted," said visiting professor Tiffany MacBain. "She was old enough to "know better" – to predict the immediate consequences of her actions – and she acted anyway. I think all of us would be lucky to look back upon our lives and to know that when it counted – once, twice, or a hundred times – we stood up front when it would have been easier to sit in the back."