Rosa Parks Biography

Mrs. Rosa Parks' non-profit organization may be stopped from operating as a result of a dispute between some of Park's relatives and Elaine Steele, who runs the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute.

Rosa Parks was born as Rosa Louise McCauley on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her father, James McCauley, was a carpenter and her mother, Leona Edwards, was a teacher. At the age of 2, she moved to her grandparents' farm in Pine Level, Alabama with her mother and younger brother Sylvester. Rosa Parks was homeschooled by her mother and later enrolled in Montgomery Industrial School for Girls at the age of 11. Rosa went on to a laboratory school that was set up by the Alabama State Teachers College High School for Negroes. She was unable to graduate with her class because she forced to drop out and take care of her sick grandmother and her mother. Rosa never returned to that school, but worked in a shirt factory in Montgomery.

In 1932, Rosa married a barber named Raymond Parks. Raymond was an active member of the NAACP. He supported Rosa to complete her high school degree. Soon she joined the Montgomery
chapter of NAACP in 1943, serving as the secretary to the president. Together they worked quietly to improve the lives of African Americans in the segregated south. 

December 1, 1955, Rosa boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus to go home after a hard day at work. Rosa sat in a seat in the first few rows designated for the colored passengers. Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the authority to ask colored passengers to give up their seats for white passengers when no other seats were available. That particular day, the bus was filling up with passengers. The bus driver noticed that many white passengers were standing, so he moved the line that separated the white and colored people back a row. Three out of the four passengers agreed to move; however, Rosa did not.  The bus driver called the police and had Rosa arrested.  Although many people believe Rosa refused to give up her seat because she was physically tired, the real reason is much different. Rosa was sick and tired of the treatment of colored people and giving in. She knew exactly what she was doing by refusing to give up her seat. Rosa was arrested for violating Chapter 6, section 11 of the Montgomery City code. Later that night, she was released on bail. 

Rosa Parks suffered many hardships throughout her live as a result of her act of bravery. She lost her job at the department store and her husband lost his job. They were forced to leave Montgomery because they couldn't find work. Rosa moved with her husband and mother to Detriot, Michigan, where they started a new life.  Rosa obtained a job as a secretary and receptionist in U.S. Representative John Conyer's congressional office.  She also was a member on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1987, Rosa along with friend Elaine Eason Steele founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. The institute introduces people to important civil rights and Underground Railroad sites. In 1992, Rosa published her autobiography Rosa Parks: My Story.

Rosa received many awards during her lifetime. One of Rosa's biggest achievements was receiving the Springarn Medal, which is the NAACP's highest award. Some of her other awards were the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award (awarded by Bill Clinton), the Congressional Gold Medal, and she was also named one of the 20 most influential people of the twentieth century. 

Rosa passed away quietly in her apartment on October 24, 1995. Rosa had been diagnosed with progressive dementia a year earlier. Many memorial services were held for her. Rosa Parks was a very influential woman who will always be remembered.