On this date in 1955 police in Montgomery (AL, US) police officers arrested Rosa L. M. Parks for refusing to move from her seat on a public transportation vehicle so that a caucasian man could sit in the row of four seats. For her action, Ms. Parks received many honors (e.g., the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal and the Martin Luther King Jr. Award; the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal).
Here’s an excerpt from an Wikipedia entry about her action:
Under the system of segregation used on Montgomery buses, white people who boarded the bus took seats in the front rows, filling the bus toward the back. Black people who boarded the bus took seats in the back rows, filling the bus toward the front. Eventually, the two sections would meet, and the bus would be full. If another black person boarded the bus, he was required to stand. If another white person boarded the bus, then everyone in the black row nearest the front had to get up and stand, so that a new row for white people could be created. Rosa Parks was sitting in the front-most row for black people. When a white man boarded the bus, the bus driver, James F. Blake, told everyone in her row to move back to create a new row for the whites. While all of the others in her row complied, Rosa refused, and was arrested for failing to obey the driver’s seat assignments, as city ordinance did not explicitly mandate segregation, but gave the bus driver authority to assign seats.
Ms. Parks was not the first African-American who refused to give up her seat on a public transport vehicle (Jackie Robinson had done so many years earlier while serving in the US military; Claudette Colvin, a Montgomery high-school student was arrested for the same offense on a bus in Montgomery a few months before Ms. Parks), but it was her action and the subsequent actions of her community that are marked as a turning point in US history.
- The Wikipedia entry from which I quoted;
- The Wikipedia entry about Ms. Parks;
- The Montgomery Boycott site, which has extensive coverage of the community and individuals who were involved in the events;
- The recollections of Uriah J. Fields, one of the ministers involved in the boycott (and now a denizen of my neighborhood);
- A biography of Ms. Parks from the Academy of Achievement;
- The Wikipedia entry about Ms. Colvin.