Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. On December 1, 1955, a 42 year-old Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, landing her in prison. The courageous act set in motion the Montgomery bus boycott and is viewed as an impetus to the American civil rights movement. “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in,” said Parks of her decision.
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. commemorated the death of Rosa Parks in 2005 in TIME:
With quiet courage and nonnegotiable dignity, Rosa Parks was an activist and a freedom fighter who transformed a nation and confirmed a notion that ordinary people can have an extraordinary effect on the world. In her declining health, I would often visit Mrs. Parks, and once asked her the most basic question: Why did you do it? She said the inspiration for her Dignity Day in 1955 occurred three months prior, when African-American Emmett Till’s murdered and disfigured body was publicly displayed for the world to see. “When I thought about Emmett Till,” she told me, “I could not go to the back of the bus.” Her feet never ached.
Mrs. Parks’ defiance led immediately to a 381-day bus boycott drum majored by a 26-year-old Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.and ultimately to a nine-year march culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forced red states to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education decision rendered a decade earlier. Her righteous indignation literally changed the world. Long before the Internet, the mother of the civil rights movement cast her global net from the long walk to freedom of Nelson Mandela and black South Africans to the temerity of Chinese students who, against tanks at Tiananmen Square, dared to challenge unjust government policies. Mrs. Parks, who died last week at age 92, was never driven by any political agenda, and she was never abrasive. She united us all with peace and perseverance. God bless her soul, and may the light of liberation forever shine.
The Associated Press has reported that the U.S. Postal Service has issued a special “Rosa Parks Forever” stamp today in her honor.