On this day, 67 years ago, Rosa Parks refused to move from her bus seat to one in the back of the bus. This marked the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, lasting from the day Rosa Parks was arrested (December 5) to more than a year later. On December 20, 1956, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the bus segregation laws in Alabama and Montgomery were unconstitutional.
While this did mark a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement, Parks was not the first to refuse to move her seat on a bus. Earlier in 1955, Claudette Colvin, a 15-year-old student, was arrested for refusing to move from her seat for a white person. As for why she did not become a catalyst for the movement the way Rosa Parks did, Colvin offers a simple explanation: “she was an adult. They didn’t think teenagers would be reliable.” (NPR, 2009)
Additionally, Rosa Parks was active in the Civil Rights Movement before the bus boycott and for decades afterward. She was involved with the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, a member of the League of Women Voters, and attended the Highlander Folk School, an education center for activism for workers’ rights and racial equality.
For more information on Rosa Parks and integral figures in the Civil Rights Movement, check out these titles:
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis
Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks
Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality by Tomiko Brown-Nagin
The Eyes on the Prize: Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle, 1954-1990 by Clayborne Carson
Daughter of the Boycott: Carrying on a Montgomery Family’s Civil Rights Legacy by Karen Gray Houston