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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks, 1913-2005

The Detroit Free Press has a fine obituary. Even though I've lived within 40 miles of her for most of my life, and lived in Montgomery for seven years as well, I've learned things from her obit that I didn't know.

Rosa Parks and her husband had been involved in the NAACP and other civil rights organizations for years before the Montgomery bus incident in December 1955. She didn't actually sit in the "whites only" section of the bus; she sat in the first row of the black section. However, the Jim Crow rule was that blacks had to move farther back when the white section was full, which it was that day. She refused to move and was arrested.
Parks has said one of her biggest regrets is that numerous news stories reported that she refused to give up her seat because she was tired after a day of work. She was not. She was tired of the mistreatment of black people.

"I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day," she said in her autobiography. "I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old the. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."
Parks worked for Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) as a receptionist and assistant from 1965 until she retired in 1988.