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Born in February 4, 1913, Rosa Parks was and still is a human rights activist icon of all the time. Parks’ memories highlight an end to a black chapter in American history, which was littered with bestiality and utter violation of basic human rights. During Parks time, black Americans were only but ‘the other people’; to be seen and not to be heard, a set of people who could not enjoy the rights their white counterparts were enjoying in the United States of America in the twentieth century.
Black Americans faced segregation in hotels, public accommodations and public transport to name but a few; moreover, abuse and mistreatment accompanied this denial of human rights. Nevertheless, Parks’ heroic act in the evening of December 1, 1955 in a bus in Montgomery Alabama brought a revolution that led to the famous Montgomery bus boycott and the subsequent birth of numerous human right activists’ movements, which led to review of laws that hitherto permitted segregation in public transport.
Rosa Parks Story and Its Influences
Park’s story influenced the world greatly. In the evening of December 1, 1955, Parks refused to offer her seat in a bus to a white man, something that led to her arrest. When the bus driver, James F. Blake threatened to call the police, Parks simply said, “You may do that” (Parks, 1992, p. 1). Sure, to his threats, Blake called the police and that is how Parks found herself in police custody for the rest of the evening.
The humiliation of being whisked from a public bus into police custody notwithstanding, this event brought revolution, which led to numerous human rights movements across America and it became the mother of human rights activists across nations. As aforementioned, Parks’ act of defiance led to the famous 381-days Montgomery bus boycott spearhead by Martin Luther King. This boycott crippled public transport system for a long period and it brought attention to the world all over.
Blacks in the United States of America and elsewhere knew that they were entitled to human rights just as their white counterparts for all people, black or white are God’s creation. Through Parks’ action, people like Nelson Mandela of South Africa found grounds to stand against apartheid in his country South Africa. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison in the Robben Island but came out to campaign for abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.
Mandela’s visit to the United States of America in June 1990, “Touched, and energized black Americans as much as anything since the height of the civil rights era…Mandela always wanted to see Rosa Parks” (Brinkley, 200, p. 229). This is an example of how Parks influenced the world in human rights frontier. Parks also influenced future generations greatly both at administration and personal level as exposited next.
The current generation would be different, probably living in self-neglect, conformity, intimidation and oppression were it not for Parks. Parks case found its way to the Supreme Court and on December 20, 1956, segregation in bus was ruled unconstitutional. In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed outlawing segregation in schools, public areas, and transport system among others. These tremendous results came from that single act of defiance and boldness demonstrated by Parks in that bus in Montgomery.
Today people are enjoying freedom and equality that resulted from Parks’ actions. Numerous lives have been touched by Parks boldness and self-belief. On top of her daring actions, Parks went ahead to initiate projects as Rosa L. Parks Scholarship foundations and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-development. Many people in this generation have benefitted from these foundations courtesy of Rosa Parks.
Parks’ influences transcend the current generation; generations to come will be talking and emulating the steps of this iconic figure in human rights activism. Parks believed in herself and this gives people the challenge to stand for what they believe in. This does not call people to riot whenever something goes wrong; no, it calls for a positive action to right the wrongs prevalent in society.
Individuals can stand for what they believe is right no matter the prevailing opposition, oppression, and intimidation because Parks showed that it is possible to bring the desired change and results through boldness and self-belief. Despite her courageous move and rising to iconic figure in society, Parks faced the common problems that everyone else faces in society but she found happiness and inspiration from a popular source, the bible.
Parks lost her job after her arrest and her husband lost his too, after defying orders to talk with Parks whilst in policed custody. In 1957, they left Montgomery for Hampton in Virginia to start life afresh. Unfortunately, in 1970s, she lost her husband, mother, and brother.
One would wonder how Parks managed to pursue liberty and happiness in such trying times and beyond. As aforementioned, Parks was a staunch Christian from a tender age and this gave her the impetus to carry on with her quest for liberty and happiness in twentieth century and beyond.
The only thing that she knew as a fact was, “somehow we had to change the laws” (Parks, 1992, p. 2). This formed the basis of her push for liberty. Parks’ happiness came directly from the bible. She posits that, “God is everything to me” (Brinkley, 2000, p. 13). This gave her reason to face tomorrow for she was deeply convinced in her heart that God was watching upon her. According to Brinkley (2000), Rosa Parks spent her entire life as a staunch devotee of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church (p. 13).
Nothing else could see someone through the trials and tempting times that Parks went through in her life. Revisiting the story of her relatives, her husband, mother, and brother were hospitalized at the same time forcing her to visit three hospitals in a day. This was tempting for Parks given the fact that these were the only living close relatives she had.
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Nevertheless, the bible and her strong faith in the Christian faith saw her through. Brinkley (2000), notes that, “AME preachers did not just intone passages from the New Testament; they used impassioned oratory to bring the spirit of the Lord right into their congregations” (p. 13).
This ‘spirit’ of the lord formed the basis of how Parks pursued happiness. On the other side, in her bid to pursue liberty, Parks knew there was need to change the laws and this would come by “getting enough white people on our side to be able to succeed” (Parks, 1992, p. 2). This combination of faith and strategy to change the laws by incorporating white people in the scheme underlines Parks quest to pursue liberty and happiness in the twentieth century and beyond that.
Rosa Parks was a human right activist icon and this came into limelight when she refused to offer her seat to a white man in Montgomery Alabama on December 1, 1955 after which she was arrested. This triggered numerous protests including the famous Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted for 138 days.
This influenced the world greatly and the generations that followed. People like Nelson Mandela found the impetus to carry on his quest for apartheid-free South Africa from the inspiring story of Rosa Parks. Parks pursued liberty and happiness by seeking to change the laws by incorporating white people and holding steadfast to her faith in Jesus Christ.
Brinkley, D. (2000). Rosa Parks. New York: Penguin Group.
Parks, R. (1992). Rosa Parks My Story. New York: Penguin Books.