NAACP Chairman Julian Bond's Eulogy of Rosa Parks Metropolitan AME Church, Washington, D.C. October 31, 2005

Article excerpt

We are gathered here to say goodbye and well done to Rosa Louise McCauley Parks. She leaves us as she lived her life, with honor and dignity. She was daughter, sister, wife, aunt and mother to the Movement. But she was more than that. She leaves us just short of the 50th anniversary of the day she showed the world you can stand up for your rights by sitting down. Her actions produced a movement and introduced America to a new leader. Dr. King said, "She was anchored to that seat by the accumulated indignities of days gone by and the boundless aspirations of generations yet to come."

Now, she wasn't the first to refuse to surrender to Montgomery's apartheid. There had been Claudette Colvin. There had been Mary Louise Smith and countless others before her. Those who believed they had rights just like any other citizen. But Rosa Parks was the first person to plead not guilty. For her, breaking Alabama law was obeying the Constitution. It was defending justice. She was tired all right; she was tired of mistreatment. She was tired of second-class citizenship. But you know, she didn't want to be known as "the bus woman." She was much, much more than that. In the story of rights, although Martin Luther King played a crucial role in transforming a local boycott into a social justice movement, he was himself transformed by a movement he did not initiate.

In Montgomery, the boycott owed its success to what a historian called "the self-reliant NAACP stalwarts" who acted on their own before King could lead. Rosa Parks was first among those NAACP stalwarts. She had been active with the NAACP for more than a decade before the boycott began. When it began, she was secretary to the Alabama NAACP State Conference. She was secretary to the Montgomery branch of the NAACP. She was advisor to the youth council of the NAACP. She was secretary to the Alabama Voter's League. But she was more than that.

She was secretary to the Montgomery branch of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the pioneering Black union led nationally by A. Phillip Randolph and locally by E.D. Nixon. She writes in her biography that Mr. Nixon once told her, "Women don't belong nowhere but in the kitchen." She said, "Mr. Nixon, what about me?" He said, "You're a good secretary, and I need one." But she was more than that.

She became such an icon in American history and popular culture that the Neville Brothers immortalized her. …