Today marks Rosa Parks' 100th birthday, and although she may not be here to celebrate this milestone, countless people all over the country are honoring her for her pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Among the leaders, actors, authors, and historians who've taken time out to reflect on the legacy of Ms. Parks, here are some of their notable quotes on a woman who, despite her flawed depiction of merely being a meek, unassuming seamstress, was actually a gutsy, deeply engaged Civil Rights activist.
“We women are fortunate to scan the generations and discover women who dared to be “sheroes” and role models for girls and young women. Madame Curie, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mrs. Rosa Parks have brightened our days and influenced our thoughts. Because of their courage and insight, we have come to believe we can be the best and deserve the best. Thanks to all of them.” - Maya Angelou
“Most people know Ms. Parks for being a woman whose feet were sore, who simply decided one day to sit in a seat she was not entitled to and defy Jim Crow segregation in Montgomery, Alabama. But her life was so much richer and more important than that. She had been trained as a political activist, and was part of a community of women activists who were organizing to take on segregated buses for the purposes of ending that practice. The centennial gives us all a chance to reflect on what democracy requires of us to both expand and protect it. It’s not just simply about individuals, who are courageous and make great sacrifices, but it is also about planning and finding a community of believers in something different than the status quo and that’s most certainly what Rosa Parks’ early life represents.” - Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Watch a short animation on Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights pioneer:
“Rosa Parks had a secret life of love and fidelity that she shared with her husband. She disclosed this to me at an event at which she was being honored many years ago. For example, he loved her long hair; when he died she pinned it up and in public never again wore it long, waist length, again. All of us, if we are lucky and blessed by Life, have secret lives of trust and adoration that nobody else knows about. This is a precious source of solace, especially if publicly our lives are scrutinized for failures and faults. I was gleeful to know our 'Miss Rosa,' the demure, classically proper, but absolutely determined rebel, who chose to leave us an image, different than the historical one, of herself. To know that our elders and ancestors lived lives of intensity and passion gives us strength to move forward in the authenticity of our feelings, and blesses our instinct to love the universal 'others,' yes, but also to honor the devotion of the ones who wait at home for us, and who, we know, completely cherish every natural expression of our intrinsic self.” - Alice Walker
“Rosa Parks was of the purest personification of strength. She lived a life clothed in meekness and genteel humility. Though she never bore children, her deep love for them made each of us stronger by her example of self-respect and righteous indignation. She remained seated so that all, everywhere, might stand…taller.” - Angela Bassett
"Commonly known as "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement," Rosa Parks is a heroine who will be forever remembered for her courage to stand up for what she believed. I am honored to have been part of the Civil Rights Movement she helped fuel. Because of her vision for equality, America has made great strides toward a more perfect union.
The story of Rosa Parks is proof that everyone in our great democracy, in this case a 42-year-old black woman from Montgomery, Alabama, can change the course of our country and help pave a better tomorrow for future generations. I hope we can be inspired by the heroic spirit of Rosa Parks, one of the most remarkable women in our nation's history, to continue our fight for equality and justice for all Americans." – Congressman Charles Rangel
Watch a mini bio of Rosa Parks' legacy:
“The conventional wisdom about Rosa Parks is that she was a woman who got on a bus and was tired and her feet hurt and she didn’t want to get up. That doesn’t take into account her incredibly amazing political consciousness and the training she had. Rosa Parks had the discipline and the consciousness and the awareness to be the person to represent herself and represent African-Americans who were trying to make a difference.” - A’Lelia Bundles, author of 'On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker'
“Rosa Parks’ story tells us you don’t have to always have been a leader to do something important and to make an impact, and you don’t have to be a big a personality or a loud person to take a stand. You can be a quiet person of principles, and these quiet people who work behind the scenes are important to social change.” - Mia Bay, Professor of History and Director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers University