When the civil rights icon refused to give up her seat for a white man on a public bus in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 1, 1955, she became a part of history.
When Rosa Parks, a seamstress, refused to give up her seat for a white man on a public bus in Montgomery, Ala., 61 years ago on Dec. 1, 1955, she became a part of history.
Parks, who is sometimes called the “mother of the civil rights movement,” was not the first person to be arrested for refusing to obey the city’s ordinance requiring black people to sit at the back of the bus and to give up their seats to white citizens. However, her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, organized by Martin Luther King Jr., and became a pivotal moment in the battle against racial oppression.
Parks was often quoted as saying she refused to give up her seat because she was “tired.” And she was tired, she explained later. But it was not physical fatigue alone but also weariness of spirit that caused her to stand her ground that day.
Here are five powerful quotes from Parks, who died at age 92 in 2005:
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1. “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. 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 forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” — from “Rosa Parks: My Story” (1992)
2. “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. 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.” — from a 1992 National Public Radio interview about the bus boycott.
3. “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, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” — from Life magazine in 1988
4. “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” — Parks is reported in the Women’s National Hall of Fame to have said this on her 77th birthday in 1990.
5. “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” — from “Quiet Strength: the Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation” (2000) by Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed