Today Marks 59th Anniversary of Rosa Parks’ Refusal

Rosa Parks sits in the front of a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., as a Supreme Court ruling banning segregation on the city's public transit vehicles takes effect.
Rosa Parks sits in the front of a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., as a Supreme Court ruling banning segregation on the city's public transit vehicles takes effect. –The Boston Globe - The Boston Gl

59 years ago today, Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Parks, born Rosa Louise McCauley in 1913, became active in the civil rights movement in 1943, joining the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of the NAACP. In this same year she made her first attempt subverting bus segregation, by entering the bus through the front door, instead of the back, as was mandated by city rules. When she agreed to exit, the doors were shut and she was left to walk home in the rain.

December of 1955 was Parks’ most famous attempt. On December 1, after boarding a bus in Montgomery, she paid the fare and sat down. As the bus filled and a few white passengers were left standing, the bus driver––who happened to be the same man who left her in the rain in 1943––moved the sign for the “colored’’ section and demanded Parks and three other black passengers move. Parks moved toward the window seat, refusing to move to the designated colored section. She was arrested and charged with violation of segregation laws.

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Her actions helped spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks’ decision followed Claudette Colvin’s decision not to move from her bus seat in March of 1955. Colvin, who refused to move from her seat on a crowded bus in Montgomery, was also forcibly removed from the bus and arrested. Colvin was later convicted of disturbing the peace, violating segregations laws, and assault.

The NAACP felt Parks made a better test case for integration since she was an adult with the right hair and look to appear middle class.

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