On Thursday December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a seamstress and a volunteer secretary for the NAACP, was sitting in the section of a public bus reserved for black passengers. As she rode, the seats designated for white riders were filled and the driver told her and three other seated black passengers to get up so the whites could sit. She refused and she was arrested.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired,” she wrote, “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.”
A young minister, new in town, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, led the bus boycott in protest of her arrest. It is important to remember how modest the demands were. King’s group did not ask that the buses be fully integrated. They only asked that the black riders should not have to move. When the segregation was ruled unconstitutional, Dr. King circulated a memo to remind the black community that not all white people supported segregation and that they should be courteous, even in the face of insults. He urged them to maintain “a calm and loving dignity” and to “pray for the oppressor and use moral and spiritual force to carry on the struggle for justice.”
Scholastic has some good teaching materials on Rosa Parks and the boycott. Older children and adults will appreciate Angela Basset’s performance in The Rosa Parks Story and Iris Little-Thomas as Mrs. Parks in Boycott.