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Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneer, dies at 92

2005-10-25 11:32:07
Tuesday 11:33:37
October 25 2005

Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneer, dies at 92

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Rosa Parks, a black woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man became a pivotal moment in the American civil rights movement, has died aged 92. She passed away last night at home in Detroit with friends at her side.

Parks had been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People for 20 years before she boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955.

When she was asked to leave her seat so a white man could sit down, Parks, who was 42 at the time, refused. As the legend goes, she was then confronted by the bus driver, who said: "Well, by God, I’m going to have you arrested." To which Parks, a seamstress, replied: "You may do that."

Parks's arrest and brief imprisonment under the segregation laws that had governed the American South since the end of the Civil War immediately caught America's attention.

Four days later, a new pastor in Montgomery, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., organised a black boycott of the bus system that would last 381 days.

Speaking in 1992, Parks said that descriptions of her protest too often claimed "that my feet were hurting and I didn’t know why I refused to stand up when they told me."

"The real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long," she said.

Parks suffered harassment and threats in Alabama as she appealed against her arrest and fine of $10 and $4 court fees. Struggling to find work, she moved to Detroit with her husband, Raymond, in 1957, where she lived for the rest of her life. Raymond Parks died in 1977.

Parks worked in the office of Congressman John Conyers, a Democrat, for more than 20 years. Last night he said: "I remember her as an almost saint-like person. And I use that term with care. She was very humble, she was soft-spoken, but inside she had a determination that was quite fierce."

Leading civil rights activists paid tribute to Parks yesterday. The Reverend Al Sharpton called her "a historic figure who singularly on December 1, 1955, tore down the walls of American segregation and apartheid."

The Reverend Jesse Jackson said: "Rosa Parks has shown the awesome power of right over might in history’s long journey for peace and freedom."

In Detroit, Parks became a venerated figure. A school and a road were named after her and every year, a likeness of Parks was carried in the city's Thanksgiving Parade. Confirming her death, Kwame Kilpatrick, the Mayor of Detroit, said: "She stood up by sitting down. I’m only standing here because of her."

In 1996, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to civilians who make outstanding contributions to American life. In 1999, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, America's highest civilian honor.

Bill Clinton said yesterday: "Rosa Parks was a woman of great courage, grace and dignity... She was an inspiration to me and to all who work for the day when we will be one America. May God bless her soul and may she rest in peace."


Source by Redazione

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