Rosa Parks hired as a secretary to US Representative John Conyers
After her arrest, Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement but suffered hardships as a result.
She lost her job at the department store, and her husband quit his job after his boss forbade him from talking about his wife or the legal case. Parks traveled and spoke extensively. In 1957, Raymond and Rosa Parks left Montgomery for Hampton, Virginia; mostly because she was unable to find work, but also because of disagreements with King and other leaders of Montgomery's struggling civil rights movement. In Hampton, she found a job as a hostess in an inn at black Hampton Institute. Later that year, after the urging of her brother and sister-in-law, Sylvester & Daisy McCauley, Rosa Parks, her husband Raymond, and her mother Leona McCauley, moved to Detroit, Michigan.
Parks worked as a seamstress until 1965 when African-American U.S. Representative John Conyers hired her as a secretary and receptionist for his congressional office in Detroit. She held this position until she retired in 1988. In a telephone interview with CNN on October 24, 2005, Conyers recalled, "You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene — just a very special person ... There was only one Rosa Parks". Later in life, Parks also served as a member of the Board of Advocates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat who is the senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, was elected to Congress in 1964, the year the Civil Rights Act was passed. He immediately hired Rosa Parks as a member of his staff.
Parks, whose political views mirrored those of the outspoken Conyers, would remain on the congressman's staff until her retirement in 1988.
Parks would remain close to Conyers, who recalled the other day that, when Nelson Mandela visited Detroit in 1990, the pair joined the South African leader on stage.
Mandela got the crowd to join him in chanting "Rosa Parks!"
Conyers said that day with Mandela caused him to recognize a simple truth: "Rosa Parks is worldwide."
Yet the icon was also a warm and generous human being. Thus, when Rosa Parks died, Conyers explained, "America lost a living legend; and I, along with countless others, lost a friend."
As a token of his respect for his former aide's accomplishments, Conyers always referred to her as "Mrs. Parks." But there was nothing formal about their friendship. She regarded him as the most important political leader in the many struggles that she waged--not just for civil rights but for peace, economic justice and, in particular, an end to the death penalty.
The congressman regarded "Mrs. Parks" as something akin to a secular saint, as his warm reflection on her passing makes abundantly clear:
We all knew that Mrs. Parks was frail. We always feared this moment, and now it is here. The extent to which she will be missed cannot be dignified with words.
She and her husband moved to Detroit in 1957, and I think it is fair to say we bonded right away. Mrs. Parks was there with me at the beginning of my career as a Congressman in 1965 and worked for me as my administrative assistant for next 20 years until her retirment in 1988. I am therefore one of the lucky few who have had the privilege of being able to call her my colleague, as well as my friend.
As the mother of the new civil rights movement, she left an impact not just on the nation, but on the world. And while she was an apostle of the nonviolence movement, Mrs. Parks never saw her self that way. She never sought the limelight and was never really a political figure at all. It was important to her that people understand the government and to understand their rights and the Constitution that people are still trying to perfect today.
Mrs. Parks will endure in my memory as an almost saint-like person. And I use that term with care. She was very humble and soft-spoken, but inside she had a determination that was quite fierce. You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene.
There will only ever be one Rosa Parks..."
And there will only ever be one John Conyers.