Seamstress, civil rights activist, author, recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1996) and the Congressional Gold Medal (1999), and the only woman in American history to lie in state at the Capitol, we are honored to welcome Rosa Parks to the Two Rivers Chautauqua September 19th and 20th.
As the secretary of her local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Rosa was the only female officer, yet her work on numerous cases was were never publicized. She was persistent in her efforts to promote desegregation, believing that “Segregation itself is vicious and to my mind there is no way you could make segregation decent or nice or acceptable.”
Often seen as a quiet, private woman, Rosa Parks is best known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white rider on the Montgomery City bus in 1955 which resulted in her arrest and a fine of $14. Her activism actually began much earlier; 12 years earlier she was thrown off a city bus for the first time. Yet it wasn’t until her arrest that black leaders in Montgomery had what they considered a fighting opportunity to take a strong stand against segregation. Here was a soft-spoken, demure lady, being arrested for sitting down; the timing was right for a non-violent protest, and the bus boycott was publicized and supported by the majority of the black community. As Rosa herself said, “The only ‘tired’ I was, was tired of giving in.” The Montgomery City bus boycott lasted 382 days and vividly brought the struggle against segregation to the world’s attention.
Having received death threats and suffering from an ulcer, Rosa and husband Raymond moved to Detroit in 1957 where she lived until her death in 2005. She remained politically active throughout her life working for 23 years for U.S. Representative John Conyers, founding the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, and writing her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story.
This quiet, thinking revolutionary and key figure in the Civil Rights Movement helped change the history of our nation. Please join us at the Two Rivers Chautauqua on September 19th and 20th to hear from Rosa Parks as portrayed by Becky Stone.
–Jennifer Murrell, Mesa County Libraries
Titles recommended by Becky Stone:
Rosa Parks – A Life, Douglas Brinkley. New York, Viking, 2000.
Rosa Parks – My Story, Rosa Parks and James Haskins. New York, Dial Books, 1992.