Rosa Parks was a fearless activist who inspired many generations all over the world.
Chances are you’ve known about Rosa Parks for almost as long as you’ve known how to spell your own name. Every Black History Month, there are countless history lessons detailing how Parks’ act of civil disobedience led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but her contributions to America and Black History go far beyond refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Rosa Parks was a fearless activist who inspired many generations all over the world. Ahead, read eight things you probably didn’t know about Rosa Parks.
1. Parks was already an activist.
Parks was a civil rights activist before getting arrested for refusing to give up her seat.
Rosa Parks had been a member of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1943 (12 years before her act of civil disobedience). At the time of her arrest, she was the secretary for the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP.
2. Parks was following in the footsteps of other Black women.
Rosa Parks wasn’t the first Black woman to refuse to yield her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery. Just nine months before Parks was arrested, a 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for the same reason. Parks was involved in raising funds for Colvin’s defense, but many believe that the NAACP didn’t rally behind Colvin like Parks because Colvin was a dark-skinned, unwed teen mother. Colvin, however, was involved in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that lead to the desegregation of the Montgomery buses.
3. Parks didn’t refuse to get up because she was tired.
So there’s this myth that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat because she was tired, and frankly, that’s a ridiculous and lazy lie. Parks set the record straight in her autobiography. “I was not tired physically,” she wrote, “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.”
4. Parks act wasn’t planned.
Although Parks was involved with the NAACP, she didn’t plan on getting arrested that day. In fact, she had had previous run ins with the bus driver who was driving bus 2857. In her autobiography, she said, “If I had been paying attention. I wouldn’t even have gotten on that bus.”
5. The famous picture of Parks getting fingerprinted isn’t from her initial arrest.
Parks was arrested a few weeks after her first arrest for her role in the bus boycott. Parks, along with 114 others, was said to be violating a state law against organized boycotting. That was when the famous picture was taken.
6. Rosa Parks was the NAACP’s lead investigator for Recy Taylor’s case.
Taylor was 24 when she was abducted and raped as she walked home from church. Oprah recently spoke of Taylor and Parks during an acceptance speech at the Golden Globes. “Her story was reported to the NAACP where a young worker by the name of Rosa Parks became the lead investigator on her case and together they sought justice,” Oprah said.
7. Parks was the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol.
After Park died on October 24, 2005 at the age of 92, she became the first woman to lie in state, a tribute usually reserved for statesmen and military leaders. More than 30,000 filed by her casket to pay their respects.
8. A movie about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott is coming out later this month.
“Behind the Movement” is a retelling of how Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat launched the history-making Montgomery Bus Boycott, and it airs on TV One on Feb. 11.
This Black History Month, try learning something new about familiar activists, authors, and entrepreneurs. These people lived really full lives, and the United States public school curriculum does not honor their legacies fully and accurately.