It wasn't just a bus, or a seat, or a moment of exhaustion intersecting with a movement for change. In fact, by December 1, 1955 — 58 years ago today — Rosa Parks was already an active member of the growing civil rights movement in Montgomery, AL. She was 42 at the time of her arrest and had spent the past decade as the only female member of her local chapter of the NAACP. She advocated for the defense of the Scottsboro boys, organized committees on behalf of victims of racial injustice, and actively opposed the Jim Crow Laws.
The idea that Parks was a quiet seamstress who was too exhausted to move to the back of the bus was a convenient misconception put forth by the media, and something she negated later in life. If she was tired of anything, she was "tired of being pushed around." In her memoir, Quiet Strength, Parks wrote: "[I was] tired seeing the bad treatment and disrespect of children, women and men just because of the color of their skin. Tired of the Jim Crow laws. Tired of being oppressed." So, when a bus driver threatened to call the police when she wouldn't move from her seat in the white section of a segregated bus, she said, "Then, call the police."
"I decided I had to know what rights I had, once and for all, what rights I had as a human being and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama," she revealed in a recorded interview shortly after her arrest made national headlines. Because of her involvement with the NAACP, and her desire for immediate change, she used her arrest to help propel the 381-day transportation boycott. Organized by a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the boycott would ultimately lead to the Supreme Court overturning transportation segregation laws.
To be clear, Parks was no symbolic mother of the civil rights movement, she was active member of it, both before her arrest and long after it. In honor of Rosa Parks Day, we took a look at the life she led and the battles she fought after the bus ride that changed history.