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Rosa Parks: Mother of freedom movement

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Rosa Parks

Rosa Louise McCauley, generally known as Rosa Parks, was an African-American civil rights activist. She was best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the United States of America.

The U.S. Congress described her as: ‘The First Lady Of Civil Rights’ and ‘The Mother Of Freedom Movement,’ for her boldness and unyielding stand in the struggle to make blacks have equal rights with whites in the U.S.

Born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913, she is 1932 became the wife of Raymond Parks, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), who encouraged her to finish high school in 1933.

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In December 1943, Parks became active in the civil rights movement, having joined the Montgomery chapter of NAACP, and was elected secretary; a position she held till 1957.

As NAACP secretary, she investigated the gang-rape of Recy Taylor, a black woman from Abbeville in 1944, and also set up a committee that sought justice for the lady.

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Parks rejected a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. Although she was not the first black to go against the Bus Segregation Ordinance, her action, however, spurred other events that came later.

Parks’ trial on the issue inspired the black community to boycott Montgomery buses for over a year. Parks’ defiance and the Montgomery Bus Boycott became important symbols of the black movement.

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She organised and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, and Martin Luther King Jr. to raise awareness on the plights of African-Americans in the U.S.

Although she suffered heavily for this, having lost her job and her husband also forced to quit his, Parks travelled widely and spoke extensively on issues, including welfare, education, job discrimination, and affordable housing, as they affect blacks in the U.S.

She supported and participated in the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches, the Freedom Now Party and the Lowndes County Freedom Organisation. She also took part in the Black Power Movement, attending the Philadelphia Black Power conference, and the Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. She also supported the Black Panther School in Oakland, among others.

In the 1970s, she organised for the freedom of political prisoners, particularly cases involving self-defence. She helped found the Detroit chapter of the Joann Little Defence Committee. 

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With her husband’s death on August 19 and her brother in November 1977, she mellowed down her activities.

In 1980, she co-founded the Rosa Louise McCauley Scholarship Foundation for college-bound high school seniors. In February 1987, she co-founded with Elaine Eason Steele, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Department, an institute that runs the ‘Pathways to Freedom’ bus tours, which introduces the important civil rights to young people in the U.S.

In 1992, Parks published her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story, and followed it up with a memoir, Quiet Strength (1995).

She died on October 24, 2005, at the age of 92, in Detroit.

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Aside serving on the boards of different organisations, winning numerous awards and important places, including Highways named after her, her home in Detroit was in 2016 disassembled by a Berlin-based American artist, Ryan Mendoza, and moved to Germany, where it currently serves as a museum in her honour.

Although she had no child, she was the first woman and the second black person to lie in honour in the Capitol. 

Interred at the Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery in the chapel’s mausoleum, the chapel was renamed the Rosa Louise Parks Freedom Chapel in her honour.

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