December 1st 1955: Parks refuses to give up seat

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Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)

On this day in 1955 Rosa Parks, a black seamstress from Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man. Parks’s actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott which gave impetus to the growing Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Through this simple act of defiance, Rosa Parks forever imprinted herself onto history.

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Police report on Parks from the day of her arrest

For her refusal, she was arrested for defying the state’s racial segregation laws. Segregation laws had been in place since the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court ruling in 1896 which declared racial segregation constitutional under the doctrine of “separate but equal”.

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President Obama sits in the Rosa Parks bus, sitting on the same row as she sat when she refused to move

Today, Parks’s story serves as a reminder that everyone can, in their own way, affect change. What could have been a minor incident of a black woman refusing to give up her seat became a symbol of resistance to a painful history of white oppression. In her autobiography, Parks gives her reasons for her actions in a way which exemplifies the non-aggressive methods employed so successfully during the Civil Rights Movement:

“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…No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in”

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