Claiming Your Seat On The Bus: The Story of Rosa Parks

Posted by Luke on Dec 1st 2017

Taking public transport can have its challenges, but choosing where to sit on the bus is easy, right?

OK maybe not in rush hour NYC...

And definitely not so for African Americans in the 1950s.

In those days, the rule in southern states was that seats at the front of the bus were reserved for whites, while black passengers had to sit at the back. And if there weren't enough seats for everyone, well, those in the 'coloured' section were expected to give up their place.

Rosa Parks, an African American woman in her 40s living in Montgomery, Alabama, wasn't the first to resist bus segregation. But when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on 1st December 1955, it all started kicking off.

Rosa Parks Tea Towel

Above: the Rosa Parks tea towel. Click to view!

Parks was arrested and fined for violating an Alabama State rule about following bus drivers' seating allocations. She was also sacked by her department store employer.

But her case was taken up by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They challenged Park's arrest in the courts, and organised a boycott.

The town's black community stopped taking the buses, deciding to walk and organise carpools instead. Black taxi drivers charged 10 cents per ride, the same price as a bus ticket, in support.

The NAACP needed someone to lead the boycott. They pressured a reluctant new minister in town to take up the task - one Dr M. L. King.

King's house got firebombed by angry whites in retaliation.

But the boycott worked.

It attracted national attention to the situation in Montgomery, and in summer 1956, a district court ruled that Alabama's bus segregation laws were unconstitutional.

Parks, King and others were just getting started on the road to freedom.

And what became of Rosa?

She moved to Detroit because of death threats, but kept working for the civil rights movement and supporting political prisoners in the US.

Upon her death at the age of 92 in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honour at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC.

A while back, we decided she should have a tea towel made in her honor too!