Rosa Park Essay

This essay has a total of 2030 words and 9 pages.

Rosa Park

One Person's Belief: The Story of Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement

"My feets is weary, but my soul is rested." This quote summarizes how Rosa Parks felt
after her victory for the advancement of African Americans in society. Rosa Parks' simple
act of protest galvanized America's civil rights revolution. Mrs. Parks is best known for
her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama.

The civil rights movement originates back to the Reconstruction Era of 1865 to the 1890's.
It had its roots in the Constitutional Amendments enacted during this period. The
Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment expanded the guarantees
of federally-protected citizenship rights, and the Fifteenth Amendment barred voting
restrictions based on race. Reconstruction radically altered social, political, and
economic relationships of blacks in the South and in the nation. Former slaves
participated in civic and political life throughout the South and for the first time in
the South, a system of universal free public education was available.

The blacks' new vision of citizenry competed with the Democratic Party's politics of
"redemption," which promised the restoration of white superiority and "home rule" for
Southern states. As Democrats regained control of state governments throughout the South,
the Ku Klux Klan and other vigilante groups sought to drive blacks from political life
through a relentless campaign of fraud and violence. A combination of municipal ordinances
and local and state laws mandating racial segregation ultimately permeated all spheres of
public life. The Supreme Court, in rulings such as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), upheld the
South's "new order," which essentially nullified the constitutional amendments enacted
during Reconstruction.

By the dawn of the new century, government and politics had become, as one historian
observed, "inaccessible and unaccountable to Americans who happened to be black." During
the age of Jim Crow, black rallies were a part of everyday life. While the rudiments of
citizenship expired, black protest against new laws segregating streetcars spontaneously
erupted in locally organized boycotts in at least 25 Southern cities from 1900 to 1906.
Some boycotts lasted as long as two years, but these protests failed to stem the tide of
segregation. Meanwhile, lynching and other forms of antiblack violence and terrorism
reinforced legal structures of white domination.

Black leaders and intellectuals continued to debate a broad range of political strategies.
There was, for example, the accommodationism and self-help advancement by Booker T.
Washington and others, the civil rights protests advocated by Ida B. Wells and W. E. B. Du
Bois, and the nationalist and emigration movements promoted by leaders such as Henry
McNeal Turner. These overlapping and sometimes contradictory approaches revealed the
tensions and challenges inherent in what often was a daunting effort: how to build and
sustain black communities amid the crushing environment of white racism while envisioning
a way forward.

During this period of white racism, many groups were formed to help and protect African
Americans such as the NAACP. During the war years, NAACP membership soared to nearly
400,000 nationally, and the rate of growth in the South surpassed that in all other
regions. Having reported 18,000 members in the late 1930s, the NAACP claimed 156,000
members in the South by the war's end. In the years to come the NAACP will prove to be
quite successful and help lead many boycotts which will eventually lead to the end of

During the 1950s the struggle against Jim Crow in the South remained distant from national
issues and concerns. Meanwhile, whites responded to the steady migration of Southern
blacks to Northern cities by extending patterns of racial segregation and black exclusion
in housing, employment, and education.

The foundation of the Civil Rights Movement remained anchored in the cumulative gains of
the NAACP legal campaign and its extensive network of branches. Southern NAACP leaders,
however, faced a broad defense of the racial status. In 1951 the Christmas Day
assassination of Harry T. Moore, a leading NAACP organizer in Florida, and his wife
inaugurated a decade of white terrorism and state-sponsored repression that heightened in
the aftermath of the Brown decision.

On December 1,1955, Rosa Parks, a local NAACP leader in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to
surrender her seat on a city bus to a white man. This action, and the mobilizing work of
the Women's Political Council, sparked a boycott of Montgomery buses that lasted for 381
days. Local black leaders elected Martin Luther King Jr., the new 26-year-old minister of
the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, as head of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA),
the organization that led the boycott and sued to end segregation on the buses. Hundreds
of African Americans, mostly women, walked several miles to and from work each day; as one
woman commented, "My feet is tired, but my soul is rested." This dignified protest
contrasted with the city's efforts to intimidate the MIA leadership through indictments,
injunction, and the bombing of King's house, and it attracted the attention of the
national and international media.

Many people believe Rosa Parks' decision to stay seated on the bus did not officially
start the civil rights movement but perhaps it occurred in 1949 when a black professor Jo
Ann Robinson absentmindedly sat at the front of a nearly empty bus, then ran off in tears
when the bus driver screamed at her for doing so. Or maybe it started in the early 1950s
when a black pastor named Vernon Johns tried to get other blacks to leave a bus in protest
after he was forced to give up his seat to a white man, only to have them tell him, "You
ought to knowed better."

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