10/25/05 — Rosa Lee Parks: Civil rights surge started with her

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Rosa Lee Parks: Civil rights surge started with her

Even to those among us who lived during that time, it seems incredulous that just 50 years ago we had separate water fountains for blacks and whites in America. That black people were not allowed in most “white” restaurants — except to work in the kitchens. That they were relegated to the balconies of theaters.

And that they were required to sit in the backs of buses.

That was the case in 1955 when Rosa Lee Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a male passenger who was white.

In those days in Alabama, the rules required blacks to sit in the rear of buses and to yield their seats to whites. But Alabama and the South were not alone in discrimination against minorities. Blacks were legally kept out of jobs and white neighborhoods up North.

Rosa Lee Parks’ defiance took great courage. She was jailed and fined $14.

But that resulted in a year-long boycott of the Montgomery bus system and triggered a civil rights movement that spread across the nation. Emerging as the internationally recognized leader of the movement was a Baptist minister by the name of Martin Luther King Jr.

His subsequent assassination resulted in triggering that movement’s greatest momentum — and a tumultuous period in the streets of the nation, North and South.

Today, more so than ever before in history, we are proud citizens of “One America,” working and serving side-by-side in a spirit of friendship and mutual respect.

And it began with a courageous Montgomery, Ala., seamstress named Rosa Lee Parks who died Monday at the age of 92.

Published in Editorials on October 25, 2005 10:24 AM