Rosa Parks

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February 4, 1913 â€“ October 24, 2005

As a little girl in Jim Crow-era Alabama, Rosa McCauley had to walk to school while busses filled with White students in her community passed by. Busses, she later said, were one of the most visible ways she “realized there was a Black world and a White world.” Some years later, it was another bus that would make Rosa a quintessential symbol of the American Civil Rights movement.

Rosa married Raymond Parks in 1932 and soon became involved with the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As secretary of the chapter, Parks worked on several cases of Black citizens being falsely accused of crimes. By 1955, these cases were turning increasingly violent. When Emmett Till was lynched by a White mob that year, Parks and other activists in the area realized that civil rights abuses were gaining more and more attention nationally.

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was seated behind the movable “colored” section sign on a Montgomery public bus. After years of enduring the prejudice of having to change seats if a White person needed it, Rosa, when asked that day to move because 3 additional White people had boarded the bus, refused. She was arrested and the defiant act set off the Montgomery Bus Boycott – a major event in the groundswell of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s – and the foundation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, whose first president was the pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church: Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the aftermath of the bus incident, Rosa’s life was upended. She and Raymond lost their jobs and endured threats and economic sanctions. They left Alabama and eventually made their way to Detroit, Michigan to be with family. While things were better in Detroit, the Parks found just as many activist causes to get involved in and they continued to work against discriminatory housing and employment practices. Over the next decades, Rosa remained an integral part of the Civil Rights movement devoting herself to numerous causes that helped Black Americans receive more equal treatment.

Raymond died in 1977, but Rosa continued her work for another 3 decades. Countless stories exist of her tireless work and she is widely considered one of the giants of the Civil Rights movement. After being unable to pay her rent toward the end of her life, local churches and organizations made sure that she was able to remain in her apartment comfortably for the remainder of her life. Rosa Parks died on October 24, 2005 at the age of 92. Her casket was transported – via bus – to Washington DC where she lay in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Parks was the first woman and second private citizen to ever receive that honor. She was buried in Detroit in a chapel bearing her name.

The Montgomery city bus from the famous incident now resides in Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum.

Burial

Woodlawn Cemetery – Detroit, MI

Specific Location

Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel – Enter and proceed to the main chapel. Rosa is buried to the right of the chancel in the second row from the top. If the doors to the chapel are locked, just ask at the main office for the code.

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