Thursday, 22 October 2015

Rosa Parks – Black History Month

Article for the Walsall Advertiser - published 22 October 2015



October marks Black History Month, celebrating the contribution black and minority ethnic individuals and communities have made to society.    

For me one of the most inspiring people from recent American history is Rosa Parks.  Rosa Parks was born into a black family on the 4th February 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Segregation was in force in Alabama and many other southern US states, with separate schools, hotels, bars, hospitals, libraries, cinemas and restaurants, for blacks and whites.  Segregation was also in force on public transport.  The law stated that if all the seats on the bus were taken, then a black person had to give up their seat to a white passenger.

On the 1st December 1955, Rosa Parks challenged this law, by refusing to give up her seat to a white man when ordered to do so.  She was subsequently arrested, and fined $14.  This simple act of non-violent defiance changed American history. 

Inspired by her actions, civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 13 months, and only ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws on Alabama’s buses were not legal.

Rosa Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and today is known as "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement".  The Civil Rights Movement faced many struggles, but ultimately succeeded in overturning the segregation laws, with the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Rosa Parks was a devout Christian, and it was her faith that motivated her to take the stand she did.  In her book ‘Quiet Strength’ she writes ‘Since I have always been a strong believer in God, I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through that next step.’  When she refused to give up her seat, she didn’t realise the impact her actions would have, but as she later said, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”  Rosa Parks dedicated the rest of her life to the civil rights movement, and passed away on the 24th October 2005, aged 92.   

Rosa Parks teaches us that even small actions can make a big difference, and that we must never tire of doing what is right, even if that comes at personal cost.  What are the things that you are willing to take a stand for today?