Celebrating the legacy of civil rights pioneer, Mrs. Rosa Parks

Remembering+the+life+of+Mrs.+Rosa+Parks+on+Rosa+Parks+Day%2C+February+4.+

Jackie Franco

Remembering the life of Mrs. Rosa Parks on “Rosa Parks Day,” February 4.

Rosa Parks Day, February 4, commemorates the life and legacy of a woman whose act of disobedience paved the way for civil rights in the United States.  Mrs. Rosa Parks, known for her involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, advocated for fairness and reform throughout her life, according to history.com.   The activist visited Sacred Heart Greenwich December 6, 1995 to speak to the students and faculty about justice, freedom, and equality.  Senior Elisa Taylor, Co-Head of Diversity Club, believes it is crucial to remember Mrs. Parks and the change she inspired.

Mrs. Parks, born in Tuskegee, Alabama, attended Alabama State Teacher’s College High School, a segregated school for education.  She left school to care for her grandmother and mother, however, she received her degree in 1934 after marrying Mr. Raymond Parks in 1932, according to rosaparks.org.  

Mrs. Parks rides on a Montgomery bus a year after her arrest.  Courtesy of britannica.com.

Mr. and Mrs. Parks both worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  The NAACP is an organization dedicated to “disrupt[ing] inequality, dismantl[ing] racism, and accelerat[ing] change,” according to naacp.orgMrs. Parks served as the secretary for the Montgomery chapter in addition to partnering with ​​Chapter President Edgar Daniel Nixon.  Mr. Nixon was fond of Mrs. Parks and recognized her devotion to the civil rights movement.

“Mrs. Parks was formerly my secretary in the NAACP and worked with me when I was State President in the NAACP,” Mr. Nixon said, according to biography.com“And she also assisted me in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  And if there ever was a woman who was dedicated to the cause, [Mrs.] Parks was that woman.”

Mrs. Parks sat in the first row of the “Black section” on the segregated bus to ride home from work in Montgomery, Alabama, December 1, 1955.  Because she was sitting in the first row, the driver asked her to move once the “white section” of the bus filled, according to ushistory.org.  She refused, which led to her arrest and the launch of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) organized the boycott which lasted 13 months, according to billofrightsinstitute.orgThe boycott led the Supreme Court to rule that the segregation of public transit was unconstitutional November 23, 1956.  When Mrs. Parks launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it codified her aspirations for equality and guaranteed her a place in history.  Her commitment inspired the civil rights movement and transformed American politics, life, and culture.

My hope and my prayer and my every wish is that one day we will have world peace and prosperity, justice, and freedom. ”

— Mrs. Rosa Parks

Mrs. Parks spoke to the Sacred Heart community about her work with the NAACP, civil rights movement, and Montgomery Bus Boycott in a schoolwide assembly. 

“My hope and my prayer and my every wish is that one day we will have world peace and prosperity, justice, and freedom,” Mrs. Parks said, according to Greenwich Time.  “In spite of our challenges—and we do face many—there still has to be hope and optimism as we go into the future.”

Former President Bill Clinton presented the Congressional Gold Medal, the most esteemed honor a United States citizen can receive, to Mrs. Parks in 1999, according to history.com.  Mrs. Parks passed away October 24, 2005, at the age of 92.  She is the first woman and the second African-American to “lie in honor” in the Capitol Rotunda, according to The New York Times.

President Bill Clinton presents Mrs. Parks with the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Courtesy of loc.gov.

Mrs. Parks is also the first Black woman to have a life-size statue in the Capitol.  The statue, unveiled February 27, 2013, honors her act of noncompliance which helped prompt a sequence of desegregation throughout the United States, according to The New York Times.  Former President Barack Obama recalled her impact on American history at the unveiling ceremony.  

“In a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America and change the world,” Mr. Obama said, according to The New York Times.  “We can do no greater honor than to remember and to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.”

The Sacred Heart community remembers the influence of Mrs. Parks and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King but also recognizes other activists.  In honor of Black History Month, each morning meeting the Upper School students and faculty learn about Black advocates and remember their contributions to a movement so consequential in United States history.

Elisa feels it is essential to remember Mrs. Parks’s iconic impact on history.  Although she believes that the United States has a long way to go in the fight to ensure equality, she feels that Americans can use Mrs. Park’s philosophy as a compass. 

“It is critical that we reflect on [Mrs.] Parks’s legacy and commemorate her because we still have a long way to go in terms of combating racial inequality,” Elisa said.  “Environmental racism, racial inequality in the criminal justice system, policing, and healthcare, as well as implicit biases, continue to remain pressing problems.  We must remember [Mrs.] Parks so that we can move towards a more equitable future.  [Mrs.] Parks also serves as an inspirational role model for us all.  Her actions help us to recognize the power that our individual decisions can hold, and how important it is that we advocate for what is right. ”

Featured Image by Jackie Franco ’23