Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Rosa Parks (1913-2005): An Ordinary Woman with Extraordinary Deeds

She made history in life when she refused to give up her seat to a white man while riding a Montgomery city bus. Time: Dec. 1, 1955.

"I had no idea when I refused to give up my seat on that Montgomery bus that my small action would help put an end to segregation laws in the south," wrote Parks in the 1992 book "Rosa Parks: My Story."
And she repeated the same feat in death- This time as the first woman* to lie in honor in the Rotunda of the US Capitol. Time: Oct. 30-31, 2005.

"The Capitol serves as a beacon of American liberty, freedom and democracy, and Rosa Parks served as the Mother of the America we grew to be - a rich, diverse nation of all shades, ethnicities and religions" said House Speaker Dennis Hastert
"I only knew that [as] I was being arrested it was the last time I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind," Parks recalled in 1999. Her action triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system by blacks that was organized by a 26-year-old Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Montgomery's segregated bus service was unconstitutional. But it wasn't until the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all public accommodations nationwide were desegregated.- CNN News

Excepts from Speakers

"Rosa Parks was a woman of great courage, grace and dignity. Her refusal to be treated as a second-class citizen on a Montgomery bus in 1955 struck a blow to racial segregation and sparked a movement that broke the back of Jim Crow. ... She was an inspiration to me and to all who work for the day when we will be one America. May God bless her soul and may she rest in peace." -- Former President Clinton

"I truly believe that there's a little bit of Rosa Parks in all Americans who have the courage to say enough is enough and stand up for what they believe in. She did such a small thing, but it was so courageous for her as a humble person to do." -- Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York

"The nation lost a courageous woman and a true American hero. A half-century ago, Rosa Parks stood up not only for herself, but for generations upon generations of Americans. Her quiet fight for equality sounded the bells of freedom for millions." -- Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts

"I think Rosa Parks was truly a historic figure who singularly on December 1, 1955, tore down the walls of American segregation and apartheid. One of the highlights of my life was meeting and getting to know her ... a gentle woman whose single act changed the most powerful nation in the world." -- The Rev. Al Sharpton

"She must be looked upon as not just the mother of the modern civil rights movement; she must be looked upon as one of the mothers of the New America, of the New South." -- Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia

"Rosa Parks has shown the awesome power of right over might in history's long journey for peace and freedom." -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson

"She loved people with a passion, and when she took that seat on that bus that day, she took a seat for all of us." -- Clara Luper, a retired teacher who led a group of teenagers in a sit-in at a downtown Oklahoma City drug store counter in 1958

"I remember her as an almost saint-like person. And I use that term with care. She was very humble, she was soft-spoken, but inside she had a determination that was quite fierce." -- Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan

"She really was a heroine to us. She was an ordinary woman and we were ordinary kids, and it seems we had a relationship. ... For me it opened up the possibility and also instructed me that it wouldn't be easy, but it would be worth it in the end." -- Minnijean Brown Trickey, a member of the Little Rock Nine who desegregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957

"In her own simple way, Rosa Parks changed the history of our nation. She forced us to recognize the dignity of every person. She was a prophet -- a common instrument of God inviting us and challenging us to a new vision of solidarity, equality and justice. We were blessed to have her as citizen of Detroit." -- Cardinal Adam Maida, archbishop of Detroit

"In one single day, Rosa Parks made the world face the cause of equality, civil rights and justice. No words can adequately describe the courage of her actions, the nobility of her character or the impact she had on an entire nation." -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

"I fondly remember presenting her with the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in June of 1999 in the United States Capital Rotunda. At the age of 86, she stood to accept the medal and sometimes steadied herself on my arm. Rosa Parks said that her legacy of quiet strength was passing to the youth of this nation." -- U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert

"I would not be standing here today, nor standing where I stand every day, had she not chosen to sit down, I know that."--Oprah Winfrey

"I think the important message today is that an ordinary person -- a quiet, humble person -- can ignite a movement." -- Marc Morial, National Urban League President

Et cetera

View Rosa Parks' Timeline

*Rosa Parks is the second black American to receive the accolade after Jacob J. Chestnut, one of two Capitol police officers fatally shot in 1998.