This week, President Trump commemorated the courage of Rosa Parks, the Montgomery, Alabama seamstress who refused to give up her seat on a bus. In his latest address, the President expanded on the significance of her civil disobedience: “She defended the truth etched into our Declaration of Independence, that all of us, regardless of the color of our skin, are created equal by God.” Incidentally, both Trump and Parksreceived Ellis Island Awards in 1986 for their work helping inner city black youth.
I first learned about Rosa Parks in Second Grade. The actors dramatizing her story were black and white, but they interchanged the races of their roles by wearing a black or white scarf. It was an interesting interplay, demonstrating that the fight for civil rights belongs to everyone. In high school, I watched a one-woman show dramatizing that entire day. The actress played Rosa Parks’ coming home from work. She also played the racist bus driver telling her to give up her seat, then presented the aftermath of her arrest and the sensational fame that followed.
The basic details of that fateful day are well-known. December 1st, 1955, Parks was coming home from another long day at work. Alabama winters dip into the low 40s, so she took the bus. She was ready to get out of the cold and get home, as anyone would. Because of the racist Jim Crow laws, she sat down in the Colored Section of the bus after she bought her pass. Pretty soon, the entire “Whites Only” section filled up, yet more white passengers began boarding. The bus driver told Parks and three other black passengers to move to the back of the bus. While the others moved as ordered, she refused. Despite warnings from the bus driver that he would have her arrested, she said “No”. Police arrived, put her in handcuffs, and booked her. She was released on $100 bail.
Recently, I learned more pertinent details of that day and why Rosa Parks’ simple act of defiance brought down the established racist social order.