How Rosa Parks changed a nation
Rosa Parks would have turned 102 on Wednesday, Feb. 4. The civil rights icon sparked a movement with her decision on one December day in 1955, when she chose not to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man. In a time when transportation was segregated by law in the South, the 42-year-old seamstress remained firm and chose to be arrested, rather than give into a system she felt was deeply unjust.
“I was not tired physically,” Parks wrote in her autobiography. “No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
Parks’ arrest led the black community of Montgomery to boycott the municipal bus system. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., then just 26 years old, led the boycott that began around the day Parks was sentenced, Dec. 5, and continued until Dec. 20 of the following year, when the U.S. Supreme Court’s written order deeming bus segregation unconstitutional arrived in the city. Integrated bus service in Montgomery began the very next day.
As a result, Parks became credited with starting a wave of protests that led to the Civil Rights Movement. She faced harassment as a result of the notoriety gained from her protest and arrest. Nonetheless, Parks went on to spend a lifetime devoted to promoting civil rights. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor given to a civilian, in 1999.
Parks died on Oct. 24, 2005, at the age of 92. She became the first woman in U.S. history to lie in state at the Capitol.
To coincide with Parks’ birthday, the Rosa Parks Collection at the Library of Congress will formally open to researchers on Feb. 4. The collection contains approximately 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs. Items in the Library’s Manuscript Division can be consulted during reading room hours; the pictures in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division will be available by appointment. Later this year, selected collection items will be accessible online.
A selection of photographs from the collection can be seen in this photo essay.