Rosa Parks is regarded as one of the most influential black figures in all of Black History due to how she was able to start the civil rights movement by simply refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama.
Had the events of 1st December 1955 never happened, this date wouldn’t have held the amount of significance that it does in the present and the black community would’ve been in a much different place in regards to the rights they’ve managed to achieve thanks to those who fought for them.
Who was Rosa Parks?
Born in Tuskegee on 4th February 1913, Rosa Park’s early life as well as the lives of all African-Americans born during this time were the antithesis of easy. While still recovering from the atrocities of slavery, which was abolished 58 years prior, the black community experienced were experiencing the worst of discrimination.
Segregation, which was passed via Jim Crow laws, were placed in workspaces, in leisure, transport, schools, and most disturbingly, on public water fountains. This mostly affected those who lived in the South, which even after the abolishment of slavery, seemed to create their own restrictive laws. This was such a huge issue that it permeated all spheres of life and community.
All African-Americans were obliged to construct the schools where their children would later study and when the state had a grasp on their wallets, they paid the same taxes that their white counterparts paid.
Not only were the structures of these schools precarious and badly equipped, but heating was also a luxury they couldn’t pay for and the children had to sit on the floor during classes. Moreover, the school year was only six months due to the obligation the children had to work in the cotton plantations.
Parks, who happened to live in the South herself, experienced oppression from the ‘dominant’ Americans who denied the black community’s right to vote. The democratic governments of the South put these restrictive laws in place and in 1910, only 0.5% of the African-American population could vote.
According to the figures, an investigator named Richard H Piles found that no African-American citizen registered in 27 of all 60 Southern counties and that 1 voter was able to register in 9 of those counties.
“The end of the [Civil] war achieved the end of slavery but many former slaves stayed where they were. They didn’t know where to go and they didn’t want to abandon their homes.”ROSA PARKS
Post-WW1, there was a resurgence of violence against the black Southern population. At that time, the upper-class white population felt threatened by black people returning to their homes after risking their lives to ‘serve’ in the conflicts that took place in Europe and feeling equal or superior to them. Once this caught the attention of the Ku Klux Klan (or simply the KKK), the early 20th century would mark one of the darkest times in Black History since slavery.
The Red Summer of 1919 played a vital role in the widespread terrorism and violence against the black community; fire crosses on front lawns, people hung from trees and lynchings became common currency. No man, woman, or child was safe from this nightmare for the white terror would continue to wreak havoc for years to come.
“The Ku Klux Klan attacked the black community, burning churches, beating and killing people. I didn’t understand then why there was so much support for the Klan, but then I realised that it was because the Afro-American who returned from the First World War were acting as though they deserved equal rights because they had served their country. The whites didn’t like the blacks maintaining that attitude, so they started to commit all types of violent acts against the blacks to remind them that they have no rights.”ROSA PARKS
The Untameable Freedom Fighter
Following her act of rebellion, Rosa Parks led a boycott of buses throughout the entire city, and a year later, the Supreme Court of the United States declared segregation on public transport unconstitutional. She would then be fired from her work in Montgomery warehouses and her husband Raymond had to resign from his job as a hairstylist at an Air Force base. The couple decided to travel through different states in search of work opportunities that could get them out of the precarious situation they found themselves in.
Even before her arrest in Montgomery, Rosa Parks was recognised for being a fighter against all types of injustice and oppression during the fifty years that followed the historic decision for which all humanity would remember her. This would be further cemented after her passing and she was able to transcend into the annals of history when the public and media found out about what happened on that day in 1955.
When Homages Become Harmful
Although the celebration of the beloved activist’s life from politicians and celebrities was immense, this would, unfortunately, be followed up by the stereotype which would stay with Park forever: the tired woman who wanted to sit.
Despite this being far from the truth, the media did everything in its power to produce as much propaganda as possible by perpetuating this lie in the hopes that it’d push a narrative that wouldn’t intimidate the white population and deliberately hide the truth about Parks being a fighter who was devoted to political life and was never tired and downcast.
This poisoning of the well would cause immense amounts of damage to the political and social climate, so much so that people began to believe that the United States became a post-racist country following the achievements of the civil rights movement.
While the United States is far from the racist hellhole it was in the 20th century and others before it and the black community was able to prosper in many aspects of life, the idea of racism being ‘a thing of the past’ was based on nothing but malicious lies, gaslighting, and the gross exploitation of activists who had the courage to stand up to the corruption of the system.
Fortunately, this has since bowed down in recent years thanks to numerous events that caught international attention.
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[…] community had now launched a fight on the streets against racism. The teacher and activist Rosa Parks had refused to give her seat on the bus to a white man, – refuting the then established […]