Rosa Parks Refuses to Give Up Seat on Bus
I did not get on the bus to get arrested; I got on the bus to go home. ”— Rosa Parks
On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full. Blacks also were required to sit at the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system and led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.
Rosa McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks and with his encouragement earned a high school diploma. The couple was active in the Montgomery Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). While working as a seamstress, Mrs. Parks served as chapter secretary and, for a time, as advisor to the NAACP Youth Council. Denied the right to vote on at least two occasions because of her race, Rosa Parks also worked with the Voters League in preparing blacks to register.
On 1 December 1955, after her day of work as a seamstress at a local department store, Parks boarded a city bus. When she refused to give up her seat to a white man, the bus driver called police, and Parks was arrested and fined.
RECOGNIZING 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF ROSA LOUISE PARKS' REFUSAL TO GIVE UP HER SEAT ON THE BUS AND THE SUBSEQUENT DESEGREGATION OF AMERICAN SOCIETY -- (House of Representatives - September 14, 2005)
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 208) recognizing the 50th anniversary of Rosa Louise Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus and the subsequent desegregation of American society.
The Clerk read as follows:
H. Con. Res. 208
Whereas most historians date the beginning of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement in the United States to December 1, 1955;
Whereas December 1, 1955, is the date of Rosa Louise Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man and her subsequent arrest;
Whereas Rosa Louise Parks was born on February 4, 1913, as Rosa Louise McCauley to James and Leona McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama;
Whereas Rosa Louise Parks was educated in Pine Level, Alabama, until the age of 11, when she enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls and then went on to attend the Alabama State Teachers College's High School;
Whereas on December 18, 1932, Rosa Louise McCauley married Raymond Parks and the two settled in Montgomery, Alabama;
Whereas, together, Raymond and Rosa Parks worked in the Montgomery, Alabama, branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), where Raymond served as an active member and Rosa served as a secretary and youth leader;
Whereas on December 1, 1955, Rosa Louise Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat in the ``colored'' section of the bus to a white man on the orders of the bus driver because the ``white'' section was full;
Whereas the arrest of Rosa Louise Parks led African Americans and others to boycott the Montgomery city bus line until the buses in Montgomery were desegregated;
Whereas the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott encouraged other courageous people across the United States to organize in protest and demand equal rights for all;
Whereas the fearless acts of civil disobedience displayed by Rosa Louise Parks and others resulted in a legal action challenging Montgomery's segregated public transportation system which subsequently led to the United States Supreme Court, on November 13, 1956, affirming a district court decision that held that Montgomery segregation codes deny and deprive African Americans of the equal protection of the laws (352 U.S. 903);
Whereas, in the years following the Montgomery bus boycott, Rosa Louise Parks moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1957, and continued her civil rights work through efforts that included working in the office of Congressman John Conyers, Jr., from 1965 until 1988, and starting the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that motivates youth to reach their highest potential, in 1987;
Whereas Rosa Louise Parks has been commended for her work in the realm of civil rights with such recognitions as the NAACP's Springarn Medal in 1979, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Nonviolent Peace Prize in 1980, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999;
Whereas in 2005, the year marking the 50th anniversary of Rosa Louise Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus, we recognize the courage, dignity, and determination displayed by Rosa Louise Parks as she confronted injustice and inequality:
Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That the Congress--
(1) recognizes and celebrates the 50th anniversary of Rosa Louise Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus and the subsequent desegregation of American society;
(2) encourages the people of the United States to recognize and celebrate this anniversary and the subsequent legal victories that sought to eradicate segregation in all of American society;
(3) endeavors to work with the same courage, dignity, and determination exemplified by civil rights pioneer, Rosa Louise Parks, to address modern-day inequalities and injustice.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Foley). Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Conyers) each will control 20 minutes.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner).
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Con. Res. 208 currently under consideration.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Wisconsin?
There was no objection.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H. Con. Res. 208, recognizing the 50th anniversary of Rosa Louise Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus and the subsequent desegregation of American society.
Fifty years ago, one individual, through one courageous act, gave strength to the citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, to stand up to the injustice and indignity that had become commonplace among its citizens. Rosa Parks accomplished this heroic feat through the single act of refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Her single act of defiance and refusal to accept the status quo led to the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott and eventually to the desegregation of Montgomery, Alabama.
However, Rosa Parks' courageous act meant much more. It inspired a broader movement that struggled and pushed back against a Nation that had failed to keep its promise to all its citizens to promote equality, justice, and fairness under the laws. It paved the way for this Nation to hold unacceptable the injustices and disparate treatment experienced by many of its citizens. Rosa Parks' courage helped restore to all citizens the dignity and respect that every person deserves. Her single act of courage will forever serve as a constant reminder of the true meaning of equal protection under the laws and the responsibility of each of us to stand up to inequality and injustice.
Rosa Parks is an inspiration to all of us and is a reflection of what it means to be an American. I encourage my colleagues to join me in recognizing Rosa Parks and her important contribution toward helping America realize the freedom and equality envisioned by our Constitution.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
(Mr. CONYERS asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks, and include extraneous material.)
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, this is a proud moment in our history, and I begin by commending the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner), chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, for the work he has done in helping me bring this concurrent resolution to the floor today.
Why is this historic? Because the impetus to reconnect with this struggle for racial justice in America began with this humble lady, a seamstress in Alabama, who on December 1, 1955, chose to no longer obey the ordinance that blacks sit in the back of the bus and if it was full, then they give up the bus to white passengers.
It is hard to conceive of the total segregation that this Nation was immersed in. On that day, she refused to obey a bus driver's order;
and it began the chain of actions and organizations and commitments that led to a resurgence of the civil rights movement as we know it.
Her arrest sparked a boycott of the Montgomery city bus lines. It went on for over a year as more and more people of all backgrounds and colors and economic classes joined in. Finally this matter reached, in November of 1956, the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed that desegregation codes deny under the 14th amendment the equal protection of laws to African Americans.
This is a great moment because the present is tied to the past. The other body is in the process of determining who the next Chief Justice of that Supreme Court will be.
Hurricane Katrina has made us remember how deeply poverty and race have brought most of the hardship upon people of color in New Orleans and in Mississippi where the havoc is still being counted, 400 deaths now known;
but the number is sure to go far, far beyond that.
Now a word about Rosa Parks herself because I happen to be connected with this, meeting her through my work with Dr. Martin Luther King as an attorney and then getting to know her when she left Montgomery and came to Detroit.
She was so modest. They said she got fired from her job a month after the boycott. Here is what she said in the book she wrote:
``A month after the boycott began, I lost my $25-a-week job when the Montgomery Fair department store closed its tailor shop. I was given no indication from the store that my boycott activities were the reason I lost my job. People always wanted to say it was because of my involvement in the boycott. I cannot say this is true. I do not like to form in my mind something I do not have any proof of.'' That exemplifies this incredible humbleness that marked everything that she did.
I said the first person I am going to bring into my congressional office staff is Rosa Parks, and she accepted. Never once have I ever heard her raise her voice in anger. Never once have I heard her speak negative or unkind remarks about anybody, this persona, this modest woman of incredible determination who, by the way, brought Martin Luther King into Montgomery to help lead the Montgomery bus boycott, which was the start of his career as a civil rights leader. Yet this humble woman, quiet, dignified, always pleasantly composed, was able to bring forward this and other countless acts of civil disobedience which resulted in us changing the way that America operates.
It was Rosa Parks that did all of this; and what I wanted to do was let Members know that she, by bringing Martin King into this matter, was able to begin a civil rights movement much, much larger than the boycott itself.
She then started the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, a nonprofit organization that sought to motivate youth. On this recognition of the 50th anniversary of that refusal to give up her seat, I am very proud that the Congress has chosen to join in with us by way of this concurrent resolution and remember this incredible point in American history.
I lift up the name of Ms. Elaine Steele, who has been with Rosa Parks for years and years as her assistant, as her counselor, as her dearest friend, and attorney Gregory J. Reed who has given her the legal background and support that she has needed from time to time.
This is a great day in the history of America that we remember. It is a great day in the Congress that we can remember that Martin King challenged his own country which he loved very much. But when he felt it was wrong, dissent was the highest form of patriotism that he could exemplify what this country stood for. And civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, by displaying her defiant act of courage 50 years ago, has made this country more of what it ought to be than anyone else that I can think of.
So I join with my colleagues in celebrating the ideals of Ms. Parks and the civil rights movement.
Today we honor Rosa Parks and her decision to stand up to injustice 50 years ago. On December 1, 1955, Ms. Parks refused to obey a bus driver's order that she give up her bus seat in the black section to a white man because the white section was full.
It is the courage, dignity, and determination that Ms. Parks exemplified on this day that allows most historians to credit her with beginning the modern day civil rights movement. Ms. Parks' actions on December 1, 1955 led to the desegregation of American society and enabled all of this Nation's citizens to realize freedom and equality.
The arrest of Ms. Parks led African-Americans and sympathizers of other races to boycott the Montgomery city bus line until the buses in Montgomery were desegregated. The 381-day Montgomery bus boycott encouraged other courageous people across the United States to organize in protest and demand equal rights for all.
The fearless acts of civil disobedience displayed by Rosa Parks and others resulted in the United States Supreme Court, on November 13, 1956, affirming a district court decision that held that Montgomery segregation codes deny and deprive African-Americans of the equal protection of the laws. This decision would lead to other landmark Supreme Court decisions in which the Court would rule in the interest of justice and equality.
In the years following the Montgomery bus boycott, Ms. Parks moved to Detroit, MI in 1957 and continued her civil rights work by working in my district office. Ms. Parks was with the office from 1965 until 1988. In the more than 20 years that Ms. Parks was in the office, she worked with a tireless spirit for the people of Detroit and other Americans.
In 1987, she started the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, a nonprofit organization which motivates youth to reach their highest potential. So it is with great pleasure and honor that I stand today to recognize not only a civil rights pioneer, but a member of my staff, a constituent, and a friend.
It is in this recognition of the 50th anniversary of Ms. Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus, that I ask the Congress and the great people of this Nation to work with the same courage, dignity, and determination exemplified by her to address modern day inequalities and injustices. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, these inequalities and injustices are at the forefront of public consciousness and it is our job to do something about it.
Ms. Parks has said, ``Until everyone can enjoy the same opportunities, people cannot be equal. I am glad that segregation is no longer considered acceptable, but the fight for equal rights must go on until we have the same privileges and opportunities as those who are in power.''
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks displayed a defiant act of courage 50 years ago to better this country for all of its citizens. I know that this Congress and the people of this Nation can work to further the ideals of Ms. Parks and the civil rights movement.
Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Con. Resolution 208, recognizing the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on the bus and the subsequent desegregation of American society. Passage of this bill will not only recognize the important anniversary, but also reaffirm the United States' continuing commitment to the legacy of Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement as a whole.
On December 1, 1954, Rosa Parks boarded her normal bus home and sat down in one of the ``colored'' aisles toward the back of the bus. Soon, the bus began to fill, and Rosa was ordered to vacate her seat to accommodate the white passengers. She simply but stubbornly refused.
This peaceful act of protest sparked a citywide boycott of the bus system by the African American community. Men, women and children of Montgomery, Alabama refrained from riding the bus and instead either walked, rode their bikes or carpooled to work. In an impressive show of strength and courage, the boycott endured for over a year, and people across the nation joined with those in Montgomery. After 381 days, the City bus line finally relented and desegregated the buses.
Four days after the initial incident on the bus, a young man stood up in front of a large audience, having just been appointed as the head of the boycott:
``There comes a time,'' the man said, ``that people get tired. We are here this evening to say to those who have mistreated us for so long, that we are tired, tired of being segregated and humiliated, tired of being kicked about by the brutal feet of oppression.'' The name of that young man spurred to action by Rosa Parks was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Rosa was found guilty that very same day of breaking the city's segregation law. It was 50 years ago that Rosa Parks chose to peacefully but willfully stand up--or rather sit down--against the abhorrent laws that segregated this country. Let us honor and celebrate what Rosa Louise Parks helped this country accomplish half a century ago, but also remember that her fight is not over. This anniversary reminds us of the battles against inequality and injustice still being fought here and across the world today.
I support H. Con. Res. 208 for the foregoing reasons, and I urge my colleagues to follow suit.
Mr. HOLT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today as an original cosponsor of H. Con. Res. 208, a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of Rosa Louise Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, Ms. Parks challenged decades of social injustice and inequality;
she opposed a racist authority;
she initiated a movement of change. It was on that day 50 years ago, that a woman spoke up for not only herself, but for the freedoms of all people, everywhere when she refused to give up her seat.
Ms. Parks' service to the civil rights movement began long before that fateful December day. Born and raised in Alabama, Rosa Louise McCauley attended the Alabama State Teachers College before marrying Raymond Parks in 1932. Together, they worked for the Montgomery branch chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ms. Parks took on leadership roles in the organization, serving as a secretary and then as an advisor to the NAACP Youth Council. These efforts to improve the lives of those in segregated societies grew into a movement to end segregation outright. That movement found a voice in Rosa Parks.
On December 1, 1955, Ms. Parks boarded a Montgomery city bus through the rear entrance. She sat in the section designated for ``colored.'' She obeyed the ludicrous segregation laws until a white man, wanting a seat, demanded hers. It was then that Ms. Parks decided that her compliance would end.
Ms. Parks was arrested for her civil disobedience. The arrest incited a reaction. Ms. Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and others channeled that reaction to form one of the most powerful and positive movements in world history. The following day, civil rights advocates organized a boycott of the bus system that lasted for 381 days. On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on the transportation system was unconstitutional and this provided one of the first victories for desegregation. We recognize the many people responsible for the effective boycott and the tremendous support of civil rights leadership. But, today, we celebrate the woman who imbued the movement with such dedication, dignity, and courage.
Rosa Parks' commitment to civil rights continued with her work in the office of my colleagues, Representative JOHN CONYERS, Jr., from 1965-1988. In 1987, she established the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development to motivate youths. She has been honored for her contributions to society with the NAACP's Springarn Medal in 1979, the Martin Luther King, Jr., Nonviolent Peace Prize in 1980, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
Let us honor the 50th anniversary of Ms. Parks' refusal to give up her seat. Let us celebrate the lifetime achievements of a truly incredible woman. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H. Con. Res. 208.
Ms. LEE. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the resolution commemorating Rosa Parks on the 50th Anniversary of her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and comply with an unjust law.
I also want to thank my colleague from Michigan, Mr. CONYERS, for offering this important amendment and for his courage, leadership, and vision as the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee and the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Without question, Rosa Parks, was a pivotal force in the struggle for civil rights in America.
Ms. Parks' courageous action touched millions of lives, serving as a catalyst for the legendary bus boycott in Alabama and acting as a critical turning point in the African-American civil rights movement.
With the support of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists, Rosa Parks demonstrated the power of individuals and communities to tear down injustice and bring about social change.
Her spark ignited a fire that helped to reverse segregation, raise public consciousness, and challenge our democracy to guarantee and secure liberty and justice for all.
Rosa Parks is a true shero. But as we commemorate Rosa and her actions today, let us not forget that we still have much more work to do.
It is our job as representatives of the people to pick up the banner carried by Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Medger Evers, and others and ensure that our children and our children's children can live in a world free of ignorance, prejudice, discrimination and racism.
Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) that the House suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H. Con. Res. 208.
The question was taken;
and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the concurrent resolution was agreed to.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.