Rosa Parks is best known for refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, which sparked a yearlong boycott that was a turning point in the civil rights movement. However, there was much more to Parks' life. Born in Alabama in 1913, she grew up in a segregated world that constantly exposed her to discrimination. Before her defiant act on that bus, she'd already fought back against injustice by joining the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and investigating crimes committed against Black people.
After the bus boycott, Parks continued to participate in the civil rights movement. She attended the March on Washington in 1963 and in 1965 witnessed the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Her later years saw Parks' work recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.
The following timeline covers notable events and achievements in Parks' long and remarkable life:
February 4, 1913: Rosa Louise McCauley born in Tuskegee, Alabama to James and Leona McCauley
1919: A six-year-old Parks begins picking cotton alongside her grandparents. She also starts attending a segregated school in Pine Level, Alabama.
1924: As there is no local school for Black children to attend after the sixth grade, McCauley goes to Miss White’s Montgomery Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery, Alabama.
1929: Parks leaves school in the 11th grade to care for her ill grandmother and mother.
1931: While Parks is working as a housekeeper for a white family, a white neighbor attempts to rape her.
1931: Parks is introduced to Raymond Parks, whom she later described as being the first activist she encountered.
December 18, 1932: Rosa weds Raymond Parks
1933: Parks returns to school and obtains her high school diploma, a notable accomplishment at a time when very few Black people in Alabama held this degree.
1941: Parks starts work at Maxwell Air Force Base, which has an integrated cafeteria and trolley system.
December 1943: Parks joins the Montgomery branch of the NAACP
As the only woman at her first meeting, she is named secretary of the group. Parks' work for the NAACP will also include investigating crimes against Black people such as murder, assaults and police brutality.
Parks attempts to register to vote but is told she failed the literacy test required of Black voters.
September 1944: Recy Taylor, a Black woman, is gang-raped by six white men. The Montgomery NAACP dispatches Parks to investigate the case.
Parks helps establish the Committee for Equal Justice for the Rights of Mrs. Recy Taylor to advocate for legal action against Taylor's assailants. The case becomes national news but the rapists are never convicted.
1945: After taking the required literacy test for a third time, Parks becomes a registered voter. Yet before she can cast a ballot, she must pay a retroactive poll tax of $1.50 for every year since she reached the voting age of 21.
1948: Parks becomes the Alabama state secretary for the NAACP.
1949: Parks steps back as NAACP secretary to take care of her mother.
1952: Parks returns to the Montgomery NAACP and once more becomes a branch secretary.
August 1955: Parks attends a two-week training session at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. Alongside other civil rights activists, both Black and white, she discusses how to integrate schools following the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.
December 1, 1955: In Montgomery, Parks defies a bus driver's order to let a white man take her seat
The driver, who had treated Parks rudely and evicted her from his bus in 1943, contacts the police and she is arrested.
December 5, 1955: Though Parks was not the first Black woman arrested for defying segregation on city buses, news of her case spurs the Black community to begin a boycott of Montgomery buses.
Parks' trial takes place. She is found guilty and fined $10, plus $4 in court costs. Her lawyers file an appeal.
January 7, 1956: Parks is let go from her job as a tailor's assistant at the Montgomery Fair department store.
January 1956: Raymond quits his barbershop job after discussion of his wife and the boycott is forbidden.
February 21, 1956: Along with dozens of other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Parks is indicted for violating a Montgomery law outlawing boycotts.
February 22, 1956: Parks is among a group of indicted boycott leaders who present themselves for arrest. She is quickly released. The case against Parks is eventually dismissed.
1956: During the boycott, Parks serves as a dispatcher to coordinate carpools. She also travels across the country to speak about the boycott.
December 21, 1956: Following a Supreme Court ruling that segregated buses are unconstitutional, the 381-day boycott ends. Parks is photographed sitting at the front of a bus for Look magazine.
August 1957: Unable to find work in Montgomery and still facing threats for her role in the bus boycott, Parks and her family depart for Detroit
October 1957: Parks becomes a hostess at the Holly Tree Inn, part of the Hampton Institute in Virginia, but leaves after the fall semester in 1958 to rejoin her husband and mother in Detroit.
1959: Parks begins doing piecework for Detroit's Stockton Sewing Company, a job she holds through 1964.
July 1960: A Jet magazine article reveals that Parks and her family have been struggling financially, due in part to her health problems.
August 28, 1963: Parks attends the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. No women are invited to speak at the event, but Parks is among those singled out for a "Tribute to Women" in the civil rights movement.
March 1, 1965: Parks takes a job in the Detroit office of newly elected Congressman John Conyers, where her tasks include answering phones and aiding constituents. She stays in this position until her retirement in 1988.
March 25, 1965: Parks joins the march to Montgomery for equal voting rights. Many of the marchers do not recognize her but in the end she is acknowledged and invited to speak at the capitol building.
August 6, 1965: Parks is among those present to witness President Lyndon Johnson's signing of the Voting Rights Act.
July 23, 1967: Parks is in Detroit during five days of rioting. Amid the upheaval, her husband's barbershop is destroyed.
August 30, 1967: A "People's Tribunal" is held regarding the deaths of three young Black men during the Detroit riots. Parks serves on the jury, which finds the police who were at the scene guilty (the officers faced no such repercussions in the legal system).
August 19, 1977: Parks' husband, Raymond, dies.
August 1979: The NAACP presents Parks with its highest accolade, the Spingarn Medal.
January 14, 1980: Parks is given the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize
1987: Parks establishes the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, intended to help young people better understand the past and prepare for their futures.
1992: Rosa Parks: My Story, an autobiography for younger readers, is published.
August 30, 1994: Parks is robbed and beaten by a mugger inside her home.
October 16, 1995: At the invitation of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Parks attends the Million Man March in Washington, D.C.
1994: Another book by Parks, entitled Quiet Strength, is published.
September 15, 1996: Parks is presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton.
June 15, 1999: Parks receives the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest legislative honor in the United States.
April 14, 2005: Parks and the hip-hop group Outkast reach an out-of-court settlement regarding their 1998 song "Rosa Parks."
October 24, 2005: Parks dies at the age of 92
Her body is brought to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, the first time for a woman to receive this recognition.