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If you like Rosa Parks's story, you might also like:
Maya Angelou,
Ernest J. Gaines,
Frank M. Johnson,
Coretta Scott King,
John Lewis,
Willie Mays,
Sidney Poitier,
Colin Powell,
Anthony Romero,
Bill Russell,
Albie Sachs,
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
Elie Wiesel,
Oprah Winfrey
and Andrew Young

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Rosa Parks in the Achievement Curriculum area:
The Road to Civil Rights
Advocacy & Citizenship
Freedom and Justice
Black History Month

Rosa Parks also appears in the video:
President George Bush: Lessons of Leadership

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Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
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Rosa Parks Interview

Pioneer of Civil Rights

June 2, 1995
Williamsburg, Virginia

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  Rosa Parks

In 1955 you refused to give up your seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Your act inspired the Montgomery bus boycott, the event historians call the beginninng of the modern Civil Rights Movement. Could you tell us exactly what happened that day?

Rosa Parks: I was arrested on December 1st, 1955 for refusing to stand up on the orders of the bus driver, after the white seats had been occupied in the front. And of course, I was not in the front of the bus as many people have written and spoken that I was -- that I got on the bus and took the front seat, but I did not. I took a seat that was just back of where the white people were sitting, in fact, the last seat. A man was next to the window, and I took an aisle seat and there were two women across. We went on undisturbed until about the second or third stop when some white people boarded the bus and left one man standing. And when the driver noticed him standing, he told us to stand up and let him have those seats. He referred to them as front seats. And when the other three people -- after some hesitancy -- stood up, he wanted to know if I was going to stand up, and I told him I was not. And he told me he would have me arrested. And I told him he may do that. And of course, he did.

Rosa Parks Interview Photo

He didn't move the bus any further than where we were, and went out of the bus. Other people got off -- didn't any white people get off -- but several of the black people got off.

Two policemen came on the bus and one asked me if the driver had told me to stand and I said, "Yes." And he wanted to know why I didn't stand, and I told him I didn't think I should have to stand up. And then I asked him, why did they push us around? And he said, and I quote him, "I don't know, but the law is the law and you are under arrest."

[ Key to Success ] Courage

And with that, I got off the bus, under arrest.

Rosa Parks Interview Photo
Did they take you down to the police station?

Rosa Parks: Yes. A policeman wanted the driver to swear out a warrant, if he was willing, and he told him that he would sign a warrant when he finished his trip and delivered his passengers, and he would come straight down to the City Hall to sign a warrant against me.

Did he do that?

Rosa Parks: Yes, he did.

Did the public response begin immediately?

Rosa Parks: Actually, it began as soon as it was announced. It was put in the paper that I had been arrested. Mr. E.D. Nixon was the legal redress chairman of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, and he made a number of calls during the night, called a number of ministers.

Rosa Parks Interview Photo
Rosa Parks Interview Photo

I was arrested on a Thursday evening, and on Friday evening is when they had the meeting at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King was the pastor. A number of citizens came and I told them the story and from then on, it became news about my being arrested. My trial was December 5th, when they found me guilty. The lawyers Fred Gray and Charles Langford, who represented me, filed an appeal and, of course, I didn't pay any fine. We set a meeting at the Holt Street Baptist Church on the evening of December 5th, because December 5th was the day the people stayed off in large numbers and did not ride the bus. In fact, most of the buses, I think all of them were just about empty with the exception of maybe very, very few people. When they found out that one day's protest had kept people off the bus, it came to a vote and unanimously, it was decided that they would not ride the buses anymore until changes for the better were made.

When you refused to stand up, did you have a sense of anger at having to do it?

Rosa Parks: I don't remember feeling that anger, but I did feel determined to take this as an opportunity to let it be known that I did not want to be treated in that manner and that people have endured it far too long. However, I did not have at the moment of my arrest any idea of how the people would react.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

And since they reacted favorably, I was willing to go with that. We formed what was known as the Montgomery Improvement Association, on the afternoon of December 5th. Dr. Martin Luther King became very prominent in this movement, so he was chosen as a spokesman and the president of the Montgomery Improvement Association.

Rosa Parks Interview Photo

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This page last revised on Mar 05, 2014 00:23 EDT
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