On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, an African-American seamstress, left work and boarded a bus for home. As the bus became crowded, the bus driver ordered Parks to give up her seat to a white passenger. Montgomery's buses were segregated, with the seats in the front reserved for "whites only." Blacks had to sit at the back of the bus. But if the bus was crowded and all the "whites only" seats were filled, black people were expected to give up their seats—a black person sitting while a white person stood would never be tolerated in the racist South. Rosa had had enough of such humiliation, and refused to give up her seat. "I felt I had a right to stay where I was," she said. "I wanted this particular driver to know that we were being treated unfairly as individuals and as a people." The bus driver had her arrested. Martin Luther King, Jr., heard about Parks's brave defiance and launched a boycott of Montgomery buses. The 17,000 black residents of Montgomery pulled together and kept the boycott going for more than a year. Finally, the Supreme Court intervened and declared segregation on buses unconstitutional. Rosa Parks and the boycotters defeated the racist system, and she became known as "the mother of the civil rights movement."
Last updated: April 14, 2015