On this day in history
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, 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.“
So today is the first day of meteorological winter and it’s also World Aids Day, but did you know that 65 years ago today, the seamstress Rosa Parks refused to obey an order from a bus driver to give up her seat to a white man? She was promptly arrested for violating Montgomery, Alabama’s racial segregation laws.
Whilst Rosa wasn’t the first person to ‘stand up’ in order to keep her seat on a bus, her single act of defiance ignited a year-long Montgomery city bus boycott that cemented the Civil Rights Movement. At the time, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP and had been trained as an activist. But, on 1st December 1955, she acted as a private citizen who had had enough of “giving in”. She said at the time, “My only concern was to get home after a hard day’s work.“
Through her actions, she became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who was a new minister in town at the time.
Although, in her later life Rosa was widely honoured for defining act, she also suffered. She was fired from her job as a seamstress in a local department store, and received death threats for years afterwards.
This year we have seen an eye opening rise in the Black Lives Matter movement. We have seen the likes of Patrick Hutchinson receive the 2020 GQ Humanitarian Award for actions at a BLM demonstration, when he carried an injured EDL member to safety. But the catalyst for this was all due to the death, whilst being arrested, of George Floyd. Sometimes something so tragic has a galvanising influence on a community, just like the defiant actions of Rosa Louise McCauley Parks, 65 years ago.
“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”
– Rosa Parks