Rosa Louise Parks is a name unknown to most. Yet a cold December afternoon back in 1955 with a gesture by him changed the history of the whole world. With a simple and revolutionary no, he wrote a new page in the book of gods rights of African Americans.
A ‘revolution’ that began by defying the rules. She rose those rules she knew them well. She had them well in mind even when she got on the bus that would take her home: blacks sat in the back, whites in front, while the central seats could be used by both whites and blacks only if the others were occupied . “Separate but equal”, “separate but equal”.
The refusal that changed history
«They always say I didn’t give up because I was tired, but that’s not true. I wasn’t physically tired, any more than I usually was at the end of a day’s work […]. No, the only thing I was tired of was suffering. I could not imagine that history was being made at that moment, I was just tired of always giving up…».
If great heroes often hide behind the faces of ordinary people, Rosa Parks she was an “extraordinary woman” dressed as a ‘simple’ seamstress. It was very cold that day. Rosa, a mender in a department store, just wanted to go home. So, like every evening, she gets on bus 2857 of the Montgomery city lines, preserved today at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. The law is clear, seats are divided according to skin color and she, finding no free seats in the black ‘sector’, occupies a mixed seat. She could do it, but she also would have had to get up when, three stops later, driver James F. Blake asked her to move to the back of her vehicle to give her seat to a white passenger who claimed it. Everyone stood up, all but one.
The forty-two-year-old seamstress, tired of being a second-class citizen, said no. With dignity, she said she paid for the ticket, like everyone else. The driver then stopped the vehicle and called the police. Officers arrived at the Empire Theater stop when the clock had just struck 6. “The bus driver said there was a black woman sitting in the white section of the bus and she didn’t want to move. behind», reads the minutes of that day.
Rosa was arrested for “improper conduct” and convicted of violating the laws racial segregation laws of the city, but his gesture that could have seemed an affront changed the course of history. Curiosity: he left prison thanks to a white Clifford Durr, an anti-racist lawyer who has always been involved in the battle for the civil rights of the African-American community, who decided to pay bail.
The bus boycott
The fight for civil rights has a start date, December 1, 1955. A place, Montgomery in Alabama, and a protagonist, a young black seamstress. Rosa Parks it was the spark and then the flag of African American protest that changed history. That night, fifty African-American community leaders led by an ‘unknown’ Martin Luther King they came together to rebel, to defend civil rights, peacefully, without violence.
A few hours later the will begin boycott of Montgomery public transportation, protest that will last for 381 days. Black citizens refuse to get on public transport, taxi drivers, out of respect, lowered the fares (a ride cost as much as a bus ticket) to help the ‘disobedients’. It worked: without the proceeds of the black tickets, the coffers of the transport company went into the red. A sign that, sometimes, even the courageous gesture of a single person can change the course of history forever.
A cry that will reach the Supreme Court of the United States which, unanimously, will declare segregation on public buses in Alabama as unconstitutional.
Since then Rosa Parks is considered “The Mother of the Civil Rights movement“, the woman who, as Bill Clinton said when he presented her with an honor in 1999, “as she sat down, she stood up to defend the rights of all and the dignity of America”.
She died in Detroit, where she had been forced to move unable to find work, the October 24, 2005. The photo displayed during the memorial service in Montgomery was the one taken by the police on the day of his arrest.