- NAME: Rosa Parks
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: February 04, 1913
- DEATH DATE: October 24, 2005
- EDUCATION: Industrial School for Girls, Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Tuskegee, Alabama
- PLACE OF DEATH: Detroit, Michigan
- Maiden Name: Rosa Louise McCauley
- AKA: Rosa McCauley
- AKA: Rosa Parks
- AKA: Rosa Louise Parks
- Full Name: Rosa Louise McCauley Parks
Best Known For
Civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger, spurring the Montgomery boycott and other efforts to end segregation.
Montgomery Bus Boycott (3:51)
Rosa Parks - Legacy (3:03)
Those who knew Rosa Parks personally discuss her legacy and their memories of her life.
For 382 days, almost the entire African-American population of Montgomery, Alabama, including leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, refused to ride on segregated buses, a turning point in the American civil rights movement.
At an early age, Rosa Parks faced injustice wherever she went and decided that by taking action she could change the world around her.
On December 1, 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and from there sparked a national Civil Rights Movement for racial equality.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
When an African-American passenger boarded the bus, they had to get on at the front to pay their fare and then get off and re-board the bus at the back door. When the seats in the front of the bus filled up and more white passengers got on, the bus driver would move back the sign separating black and white passengers and, if necessary, ask black passengers give up their seat.
On December 1, 1955, after a long day's work at a Montgomery department store, where she worked as a seamstress,
Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for "colored" passengers. Though the city's bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn't specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed.
As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, "Why don't you stand up?" to which Rosa replied, "I don't think I should have to stand up." The driver called the police and had her arrested. Later, Rosa recalled that her refusal wasn't because she was physically tired, but that she was tired of giving in.
The police arrested Rosa at the scene and charged her with violation of Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code. She was taken to police headquarters, where, later that night, she was released on bail.
On the evening that Rosa Parks was arrested, E.D. Nixon, head of the local chapter of the NAACP, began forming plans to organize a boycott of Montgomery's city buses. Ads were placed in local papers, and handbills were printed and distributed in black neighborhoods. Members of the African-American community were asked to stay off city buses on Monday, December 5, 1955—the day of Rosa's trial—in protest of her arrest. People were encouraged to stay home from work or school, take a cab or walk to work. With most of the African-American community not riding the bus, organizers believed a longer boycott might be successful.
On the morning of December 5, a group of leaders from the African-American community gathered at the Mt. Zion Church in Montgomery to discuss strategies, and determined that their boycott effort required a new organization and strong leadership. They formed the Montgomery Improvement Association, electing Montgomery newcomer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
Visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a leading research institute for the history and culture of people of African descent.
Learn more about the lives of African-Americans who have made extraordinary achievements in their fields, with our collection of Black History Groups.
Explore our curated collections of African-American figures, including:
Check out BIO’s original video series, American Freedom Stories, about the historic events of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama, and the leaders and everyday heroes who fought to make racial equality a reality. Watch videos.
Flip through these photos of some of Black History's most important, controversial and inspiring figures. Check out our African-American Firsts - Athletes, Black Comedians, Million-Dollar Ideas, African-American Biopics, African-American Expats, or explore all of our Black History photos.
Celebrate the historical icons of America's black community through this interactive journey.
- Apollo Theater Interactive Tour
- Apollo Theater Timeline
- Path to Equality
- Who Am I Game
- Harlem Renaissance