'I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free, so other people would be also free'
This week marks sixty years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man whilst travelling on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her actions violated American segregation laws at the time, leading to her subsequent arrest which then kick-started a year long bus-boycott protest in Montgomery and saw more than 50,000 people – led by Martin Luther King Jr. – walk, cycle and share cars to highlight racial injustice. The boycott ended in June 1956 after 381 days, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the legislation as unconstitutional.
Rosa Parks’ brave actions on December 1, 1955 earned her the title of ‘the mother of the civil rights movement’ and she is credited for sparking the wave of political protest which foregrounded the entire Civil Rights Movement in America – and which continued for more than 20 years after her rise to prominence.
After losing her job in Montgomery, Rosa relocated to Detroit with her husband and continued to be active in the Civil Rights Movement. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. Upon her death in 2005, she was first woman and third non-U.S. government official to lie in honour at the Capitol Rotunda – the dome within the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government which is usually reserved for political leaders.
Here we remember her most inspirational quotes:
1. ‘I was not tired physically or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.’
– In her 1999 autobiography Rosa Parks: My Story, Rosa contests the idea that she refused to give up her seat because she was tired after a long day at work.
2. ‘Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.’
3. ‘I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time… there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner.’
– Rosa reveals her views on giving up her seat that day in her autobiography.
4. ‘I’d see the bus pass every day. But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realised there was a black world and a white world.’
-Rosa Parks describes how she became aware of racial segregation as a child in The Story Behind The Bus,
a book by Henry Ford on her life
5. ‘I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free, so other people would be also free.’
6. ‘Differences of race, nationality or religion should not be used to deny any human being citizenship rights or privileges. Life is to be lived to its fullest so that death is just another chapter. Memories of our lives, our works and our deeds will continue in others.’
7. ‘I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.’
– Her PBS Radio interview saw her speak freely on her experiences after her arrest.
8. ‘I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope and looking forward to a better day, but I don’t think there is any such thing as complete happiness.’
– Rosa Parks’ response when she was asked if she was happing living in retirement having lost her husband Ray in 1977
What’s your favourite Rosa Parks quote? Tweet us @marieclaireuk