The lady who became the impetus for the Civil Rights Movement by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. died Monday night. She was 92.
Rosa Parks died of natural causes while taking a nap at her home in Detroit.
"She just fell asleep and didn’t wake up," said Shirley Kaigler, Parks lawyer.
In Montgomery in 1955 everything from general stores to water fountains to buses were segregated. On the night of Dec.1, after work, Parks boarded a bus and sat in the first empty seat that she saw. Parks didn’t care that it was in the white section and although a white man was left standing she refused to get up from her seat.
The bus driver called the police immediately and had her arrested. Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott led by the then unknown Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott began a year after the historic Brown vs. Board of Education decision that declared separate schools for blacks and whites was unconstitutional.
On November 13, 1956 the Supreme Court said that bus segregation was also unconstitutional. After the boycott, Parks and her husband, Raymond Parks moved to Detroit due to increased violence in opposition to the decision. In Detroit, she worked in office of Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) until 1988. Her husband died in 1977.
Rosa Louise Parks was born in Tuskegee, Ala. on Feb. 4, 1913. She was the oldest child of James McCauley, a carpenter, and Leona Edwards, a schoolteacher. Her life was marked with great accomplishments. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor, the highest civilian award, in 1996 by President Bill Clinton and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
In 2000, a library and museum was built in her honor in Montgomery at the very spot where she was arrested 45 years earlier. In 1965 Cleveland Avenue in Montgomery was renamed Rosa Parks Boulevard.
She opened the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, a school that “developed leadership among Detroit’s young people and initiated them into the struggle for civil rights,” in 1987.
In 1998 at a celebration in her honor, she said: “I am leaving this legacy to all of you … to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die – the dream of freedom and peace.”
Parks published three books: “Rosa Parks: My Story” (1992), “Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation,” (1994) and a collection of letters entitled “Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With Today’s Youth” (1996).
In 1994, unfortunately, she was robbed by a black man for $45 and suffered some bruises on her face. “So many of our children are going astray," she said after the incident.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he felt a personal tie to the civil rights icon: “She stood up by sitting down. I’m only standing here because of her,” reported MSN.com
Rosa Parks and her husband had no kids but are survived by 13 nieces and nephews.