The Spokesman-Review


Rosa Parks’ Simple Act Changed History For African Americans

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 6, 1996

Being an African-American male, I have so much of my people’s history to be proud of. Many events have improved social conditions and Rosa Parks has helped a great deal. To write of African Americans without mentioning her is to leave out a major part of our nation’s history.

For half of Rosa’s life, there were laws and customs in the South that kept African Americans segregated from Caucasians. These laws allowed white people to treat African Americans without respect. She never thought that was fair. From the time she was a child, Rosa tried to protest against disrespectful treatment. It was very hard to do anything when white people had the power of the law in their hands. What she did was simple and electrifying.

She gave no speeches, wrote no petitions and argued no points of law. On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks took a public bus in Birmingham, Ala. She had just boarded the bus as other passengers had. The white bus driver then noticed that a white man was standing. He also noticed that Rosa was sitting in the white section of the bus. He then ordered Rosa to the back of the bus, where the so-called “colored” were to sit. As far as he was concerned, she was breaking the law by sitting in the white section.

Parks refused to move. The driver, annoyed, stopped the bus and called the police. She was arrested simply because she refused to give up her seat to a white man. She was jailed and then brought to trial.

Fortunately, she was released on bail. At trial, she was fined $14 for breaking segregation laws.

This incident caused the African-American community to rise as it had never done before. Because of this, Rosa was out of a job. No black person rode the buses. Rosa’s courage sparked a movement.

She then did work for the Montgomery Improvement Association. The MIA was formed to help improve the conditions for black people. Rosa was on the executive board helping people get to and from work. The MIA held regular meetings to keep people inspired to stay off the buses.

In February 1956, Rosa was just one of the 89 arrested for boycotting without a just cause or legal excuse. Apparently, a group of white lawyers came up with an old law prohibiting boycotting. Everyone arrested was released on bail. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the president of the MIA. He was found guilty and sentenced to pay $500. He was the only one tried. After the trial the boycott continued. White people did everything in their power to discontinue the boycott. They were unsuccessful.

On Nov. 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in our favor - that segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. The boycott had lasted more than a year. African Americans were happy, but realized they had more to do.

Although buses had been integrated, things did not go very smoothly. Whites tried to form their own bus lines. Even though they were unsuccessful, they did not stop at that. Black people were not going to be frightened onto the buses any more than they were going to be frightened onto them when they refused to ride. The direct action Civil Rights Movement had begun.

After years of traveling around the world educating people about the boycott, Rosa attended the March on Washington. This march was organized to push for federal civil rights laws. This was the march in which King gave his famous speech, “I Have A Dream.” The civil rights movement was having a massive effect.

President Lyndon B. Johnson pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Acts. It aimed to guarantee blacks the right to vote. There were still more rights to win. In August 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. African Americans who were denied the chance to register to vote could now be registered by federal examiners.

Both of these laws were a direct result of nonviolent protest on the part of black people and their white supporters. Nonviolence has been mistaken for cowardice, but in some cases it can work.

As a result of many events, social conditions have been improved. Many lives have been changed for the better. If it had not been for Rosa’s courage, my life would have been totally different. I wouldn’t be able to express myself freely or at all. Although things have changed, America as a whole still has a way to go. To completely change the way we live our daily lives, we must join together to reorganize our world.

Rosa’s dedication is inspiring, and her story unforgettable. It has been 40 years since Rosa marked history

… Now it’s your turn.


 
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