Rosa Parks’ Role in the Civil Rights Movement


Rosa Parks is a celebrated figure in the United States thanks to her crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement (CRM). The United States Congress recognized her efforts as it named her the freedom movement’s mother and the civil rights first lady. Rosa is best known for the Montgomery bus boycott, which inspired the colored community into a series of boycotts. Later, the famous Browder v. Gayle ruling declared segregation unconstitutional. An analysis of Rosa Parks’s biography shows how a regularly born and brought woman played a pivotal role in the CRM and influenced society. Her life and achievements make it enjoyable to study how she was born and brought up in her family and educated. It is also interesting to know what Rosa Parks looked like and how she was brought up. The death of Rosa Parks and how she was accorded proper send-off will also be discussed. The reasons why it is essential to study her life will be given in this session. First, this paper will look at Rosa Park’s biography, then an analysis of her achievements will be done.

The Biography of Rosa Parks

The Birth and Early Days

The early days of Rosa Louise McCauley Parks revealed she was an ordinary girl who was capable of taking a stand. She was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, in February 1913 and was the daughter of Leona McCauley, a teacher, and James McCauley, a carpenter (Mace 3). She also had a brother Sylvester McCauley who was born two years later. Shortly after her brother was born, Rosa’s parents separated, and she was forced to go and live with her grandparents at Pine Level, Alabama. The fathers of Rosa’s grandparents were formerly enslaved people before emancipation (Reyburn 8). Her mother, a school teacher, valued education and taught her often when she attended school at Pine Level. The educational institution Rosa attended from the age of 11 was called Alabama State College for Negroes, a segregated establishment (Mace 23). Although Rosa Parks did well in class, she decided to leave school when she was 16 to help her sick grandmother (Reyburn 11). Rosa’s mother was also chronically ill, although she continued working at the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. In her early days, Rosa was a small child constantly affected by chronic illnesses.

Family Life Marriage, Education, and Occupation

After finishing school, Rosa met and married Raymond Parks, a man ten years his senior. Raymond was a National Association member for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) member. During this time, NAACP was collecting funds to help in the cases of 13 boys who were accused of raping two white women. The husband encouraged Rosa to quit her short time job of doing domestic work and finish high school, which she did in 1933. In the years following her attainment of the diploma, Rosa and Raymond continued to be actively involved in CRM. However, Raymond discouraged her from joining NAACP for fear of her safety. Nevertheless, in 1943 Rosa joined the Montgomery NAACP and was elected to be the secretary mainly because she was the only woman in the movement, and the role was considered to belong to a woman (Kayla 8). In her capacity as the secretary, Rosa was assigned the role of a sexual assault investigator by the movement’s leader Edger Nixon.

The Looks and Character of Rosa Parks

As a child, Rosa Parks was small, fragile, and constantly in poor health. In her early days, Rosa narrates that she was always kind to people, especially strangers but could not overlook the racism that was going on in Montgomery. Due to her size, Rosa was constantly bullied in school, but she often fought back, saying she could never accept being subjected to abuse without retaliating. Park was clearly a woman of color, as her photos depict. A closer look at Rosa’s looks using pictures taken after she was arrested shows she was a decent-looking woman, displaying the status of an American working lady. She was also a church-going girl who attended AME church (Mace 36). Her looks and character played a key in stimulating demonstrations and the Montgomery bus boycott.

The Montgomery Bus Incidence

Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1st, 1955, for refusing to give her seat to a white man when the driver asked. At the time front seats of the bus were assigned to white people while the back seats were assigned to black people. On that day, all the seats reserved for the white section were filled, so the bus driver, James Blake, decided to add a row for the white people by asking Rosa and three other passengers to stand (Kayla 11). The three obeyed, but Rosa declined, not because she was tired physically, as the common excuse was, but because, as she says, she was tired of the discrimination against people of color. The defiance made the driver call the police, and Park was arrested and taken into police custody. She was found guilty of going against segregation laws and was fined $ 14 (Mace 98). However, the local NAACP leader Edger Nixon decided to use Rosa as the plaintiff to fight against segregation laws. Meanwhile, the news of Rosa’s arrest provoked an unanticipated reaction among the people of color, who decided to boycott the Montgomery bus service.

To help manage the boycotts caused by Rosa Parks’s arrest, the NAACP leadership in Montgomery formed the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and appointed a young Martin Luther King as its leader. The protests done by the black community evoked a response from the white, which led to King’s house being bombed. In the meantime, the case against Rosa continued to be appealed and finally reached the supreme court. In the year following her arrest, 1956, the court made a ruling similar to that in “Brown v the board of Education of Topeka” that segregation in public buses was unconstitutional (Mace 76). This victory made Rosa Parks renowned all across the nation as she was branded the mother of the civil rights movement. It also later came to be established that this was not Rosa’s first conflict with the driver. A decade before the incident, Rosa refused to obey the rules of entry and exit for the bus, and the driver pulled her out. Rosa decided she would rather walk than travel with such a discriminatory driver.

Life after the Incidence

In the aftermath of the boycott, Rosa and her family continued to receive threats. Moreover, they were slapped with economic sanctions where Rosa lost her job in the department store, and her husband was also sucked. Rosa could not continue to work as the NAACP’s secretary because she disagreed with the movement’s local leaders. This made them decide to leave Montgomery for Hampton, Virginia, where she found a job as a hostess. They later moved to Detroit and were accompanied by the rest of their family members (Kayla 13). In this new town, Rosa stated that she found segregation to be still prevalent, which made her actively participate in anti-segregation movements. Rosa played an active role in politics and pushed for the first election of John Conyers into Congress. She was hired to act as a secretary in the Detroit congressional office under John Conyers, a role she played until her retirement. She also participated in the CRM of 1960, being regularly involved in marches in Montgomery and other places.

In her later life, Rosa Parks supported civil rights movements and advocated for the rights of politically detained prisoners. She also played a key role in the fight against sexual assault. In the 1980’s, she founded the Rosa L. Parks scholarship foundation to help assist with the funding of students who wanted to join college (Mace 155). In the same decade, she founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, which taught people, especially schoolgoers, about CRM. Later in the early 1990s, she published an autobiography titled “Rosa Parks: My Story” and a Memoir called “Quiet Strength,” where she narrated her strengths (Mace 155). Rosa Parks was always fighting for freedom, equality and taking a stand while others could not.

Death and Funeral

In 2001 Rosa suffered from dementia and was not seen in a public gathering since. Rosa Parks died on October 24th, 2005, at the age of 91, due to natural illness and old age in her home in Detroit and in the presence of her lawyer (Mace 156). She outlived all her close relatives, including her husband Raymond, her mother, and her brother. Over 50,000 people viewed her casket, and the Michigan National Guard conducted her funeral proceedings (Mace 157). In honor of her death, buses in Detroit and especially Montgomery was reserved with black ribbons. Her funeral was attended by many officials, both state and federal, including the then secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The guard took the body to different places for viewing, including Detroit, where Rosa lived most of her life, and the body was also flown to Montgomery. Her body rests at the rotunda of the U.S. Capital to honor her accomplishments

Significance of Rosa Parks

Her Role in the Modern World

Rosa Parks was chosen for this study because she played a big role in the modern world. By refusing to surrender her seat on the Montgomery bus, she influenced other people to have courage and take their stand. The Montgomery bus boycott that followed her arrest was fueled by her bravery. Rosa Parks was a model citizen at the time of her arrest (Mace 126). Parks was employed, married, and well-learned, which made her a perfect example to be used to gain the desegregation freedom enjoyed in the modern world. In addition to the contributions that have been linked with the boycott, Rosa Parks has other achievements that make her an icon in the modern world. She was a secretary of the NAACP, where, among other roles, did investigations for sexual assaults. In her later years, Rosa ensured that she was actively involved in CRM and fought for other rights in addition to segregation.

How She Served as a Model in Her Field

Another reason why Rosa Parks was chosen for this study is that she was iconic and a role model for many young people. Thanks to the December 1st, 1955 incident Rosa Parks became a historical figure fit to be imitated. The refusal to give up her seat made her to be used as an activism model during this movement and even later movements. Many today have come to appreciate Rosa Park’s brilliance, and activism is not limited to a singular event. Before and after the movement, Rosa acted as the secretary and a leader of the NAACP, acting as a good role model for career women and men. As Rosa grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, she constantly encountered acts of violence and always took a step to defend herself. This action shows that people should not accept oppression as a status quo but should always be ready to resist. Rosa was a renowned career woman and went above her scope of being a secretary to support youth activists.

Influence on the Society during her Lifetime and Beyond

Rosa Parks had a significant influence on society during her lifetime and beyond. She actively influenced people to fight for their rights during her lifetime using speaking tours (Kayla 13). She organized campaigns to bring awareness to black political prisoners. She formed charity institutions and funds to help support college students. The influence of Rosa went beyond her death, and her actions are still relevant today. Some concerns that Rosa Park and her colleagues fought for during the civil rights movement are yet to be achieved today. Thus, the courage and determination that Rosa Parks displayed are key in motivating today’s generation to fight for their freedom. Some of the laws, including desegregation laws passed as a result of her efforts, are influential to all Americans.

Why she is Relevant Today

Although the boycotts initially led to increased violence, in the long run, the movement has helped shape the U.S. into a more peaceful nation. Thanks to Rosa Parks’s defiance to leave her seat and the subsequent events that followed today, vulnerable people in the United States have access to affordable and reliable transportation. The public transportation system across the U.S. now values the insights of all people, and before any changes are made, the community is consulted. The desegregation laws have also brought positive impacts to society where people of different divides can now share amenities and resources. The sharing of values and facilities has made the majority of Americans realize that all humans are equal and none should look down upon another.


It is concerning to think about where America would be Without Rosa Parks and the role she played in fueling the CRM. Rosa’s defiance was a motivator and eye-opener for many people to fight for the rights of people of color. Indeed, without Rosa Parks, it is safe to say that there would have no been Martin Luther King. The boycotts that followed her arrest showed all people that people of color, too, had a say in society. She acted as a role model for many people to come and that they should always stand for what is right no matter the consequences. In addition to the event, Rosa Parks also played other roles in the CRM, such as researching the sexual allegation case, acting as a leader and secretary of the NAACP Montgomery branch, and acting as a secretary in Detroit congressional district, among other roles. Rosa Parks will forever be remembered as the mother of the freedom movement.

Works Cited

Mace, Darryl. Rosa Parks: A Life in American History. ABC-CLIO, 2021.

Reyburn, Susan. Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words. University of Georgia Press, 2020.

Richard, Kayla. Beyond the Bus Boycott: The Impact of Rosa Parks on the Civil Rights Movement. Diss. 2020.

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