Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was born this day, February 4, in 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Today, in celebration of her 108th birthday, we’re taking a look back at the extraordinary life of Rosa Parks.
The Civil Rights activist is most known for refusing to give her seat on a bus to a white passenger, sparking a years-long boycott of public transportation in Montgomery, Alabama.
Before her protest on the bus, Mrs. Parks was involved with the Civil Rights Movement, having joined the local Montgomery chapter of the NAACP in 1943.
“Over the years, I have been rebelling against second-class citizenship. It didn’t begin when I was arrested,” she noted in interviews.
She also didn’t stop fighting for racial justice after the bus boycott.
Here are five things you didn’t know about Rosa Parks.
Rosa Parks didn’t refuse to give up her seat on the bus because her feet were tired.
In her autobiography, Mrs. Parks set the record straight that she wasn’t tired after a long day at work. “I was not tired physically,” she wrote, “or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
There is a museum dedicated to uplifting her legacy.
The Rosa Parks Museum is located in Montgomery, Alabama. It was established in 2000 at Troy University and currently has virtual tours available.
She was a talented seamstress.
Receiving her first sewing lessons from her mother and grandmother, Rosa attended the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls to receive formal training. She worked as a seamstress and tailor’s assistant. She also had her own clientele and sewed dresses for herself. One of her personal designs is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Rosa Parks “never retired” from fighting for justice.
She and her husband, Raymond Parks, moved to Detroit after losing their jobs and receiving death threats because of racism and the bus boycott.
Eight months after the bus boycott ended, the Parks, in the wake of death threats, and unemployment, moved to Detroit, Michigan where Rosa’s brother and cousins lived. She was eventually hired in US Rep. John Conyers’ Detroit office.
She continued marching, organizing and became involved with the Black Power movement of the 1970s, a fact that often gets overlooked.
A New York Times oped by Jeanne Theoharis details the work Rosa Parks continued to do beyond the boycott.
In 1968, she attended the Black Power Convention in Philadelphia and the Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana in 1972.
Her efforts against housing and employment discrimination, police brutality, and school segregation, aligned with her belief that changes has to be gradual.
“I don’t believe in gradualism,” she once said, “or whatever is to be done for the better should take forever to do.”
“Freedom fighters never retire,” she reflected, and she certainly never stopped her work.
She was the first woman to lie in honor at the US Capitol
At the time of her death at age 92 in 2005, Parks, became the first woman to lie in state at the US Capitol. More than 30,000 paid their respects to the freedom fighter who gave so much so that others might see justice.
That same year, transit authorities in New York City and Washington, D.C. left seats open to mark the 50th anniversary of her arrest as a symbolic reminder of her civil disobedience.
Photos: Getty Images