Sunday, July 4, 2010

Uppity Women #5

Photograph of Rosa Parks with Dr. Martin Luther King jr. (ca. 1955)
Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she unwillingly began. National Archives record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93).
Source: Ebony Magazine, now Public Domain

"I would have to know for once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen."

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made her own declaration. In an act of civil disobedience, like that of Irene Morgan in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, and 15 year old Claudette Colvin in 1955, Rosa Parks declared racial segregation wrong and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama. Parks was a rarity in her era in that she had finished a high school degree in 1933 (reportedly less than 7% of African Americans had high school diplomas at that time, according to Wikipedia) and in spite of several failed attempts had managed to register to vote, a process rendered challenging for African Americans in Alabama in that era.  Parks joined the NAACP in 1943. She was an educated woman, with opinions and a desire for justice.

Several days before she famously, on December 1, 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white person, she attended an NAACP meeting that discussed the murders of Emmett Till, Lamar Smith and George W. Lee. At age 42, she had had her fill of racial discrimination. In her own words, from her autobiography, My Story:

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

That's definitely my kind of uppity.

Rosa Parks sits in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation illegal on the city's bus system. Behind Parks is Nicholas C. Chriss, a UPI reporter covering the event.
United Press International photo. 
(From Wikipedia, stated as Fair Use)

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

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