Rosa Parks: An Ordinary Woman, an Extraordinary Life

By Jones, Stephanie J. | National Urban League. The State of Black America, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Rosa Parks: An Ordinary Woman, an Extraordinary Life


Jones, Stephanie J., National Urban League. The State of Black America


Rosa Parks just said "No" to Injustice.

It would have been so easy and so much safer for Rosa Louise McCauley Parks to move to the back of the bus as she was told on December 1, 1955. But she didn't. Now, more than 50 years later, the names of the bus driver who summoned the Montgomery Police Department when she refused to comply, the police officers who carted her off to jail, and the White Citizens Council members who fought to preserve white supremacy in Alabama are barely known. And in the rare cases their names are recalled, they are mentioned only to underscore the shameful behavior of those who trafficked in injustice.

But we all know Rosa Parks, whose name is forever a shining part of our history, our legacy, and our hearts. And when she died last October at the age of 92, the nation stopped to say goodbye and to pay tribute. In a bipartisan gesture, the United States Congress decreed that Parks should lie in honor in the Rotunda of the Capitol. She was the second African American and the first woman of any racial or ethnic group to be accorded that honor, a tribute bestowed to only 30 men in American history.

Tens of thousands of Americans stood in the long lines and cold for hours in order to get a glimpse of Parks' casket. Before they took their turn, Washington's power elite exerted its power by going first. All of the players were there: leaders of both Houses of Congress, present and former cabinet secretaries, federal judges and, of course, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. The First Family entered the Rotunda early and waited, silently, 15 minutes for Parks' casket, accompanied by a military honor guard, to arrive.

To some, the quiet tributes in the Rotunda seemed like a long way from that December day in Montgomery. But it was America, not Rosa Parks, that had traversed history's long and rocky road. Throughout her life, she remained what she was in 1955-a quiet, dignified, respected and respectful woman.

In death, Parks has been vaulted into something approaching sainthood. This is not uncommon; one need only look at how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was deified after he was assassinated. …

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