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Rosa Parks: My Story is an autobiography written by Rosa Parks herself alongside Jim Haskins, an African American author. It was dedicated to her mother, Leona McCauley, and her husband, Raymond A. Parks. Rosa Parks is mostly known for taking her courageous stand to a white man on a segregated bus. This book focuses on not just one of her courageous acts of defiance, but all of them, while also telling us more about her life story and her fight to end discrimination.
Rosa Parks was raised in her grandparents’ house in Pine Level, in Montgomery County, Alabama. Her mother, Leona Edwards, was a teacher and her father, James McCauley, was a carpenter and builder. Rosa was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, and has a younger brother named Sylvester. Her family moved several times, but ended up in Pine Level. Her father left to find work and she did not see him again until she was an adult and married. She lived with her mother’s family, and her grandfather instilled in the family that none of them should “put up with bad treatment from anybody.” So from there on out, the advice stuck with her.
Rosa Parks was raised in her grandparents’ house in Pine Level, in Montgomery County, Alabama. Her mother, Leona Edwards, was a teacher and her father, James McCauley, was a carpenter and builder. Rosa was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was a small and sickly child. She had a younger brother named Sylvester. Her family moved around a lot while she was younger, but ended up in Pine Level. Her father left to find work and she did not see him again until she was an adult and married. She had learned a great deal about her mother’s family history while living with them. Her grandfather instilled in the family that none of them should “put up with bad treatment from anybody.” So from there on out, the advice stuck with her.
Parks believed that because she had to protect her little brother, it helped her to learn how to protect herself. She also believed that she knew what was fair, but felt that her attitude would sometimes lead her to trouble. Parks was still small at age 6 and had chronic tonsillitis and slowed growth. She attended school in the only one-teacher black school in Pine Level. She knew how to read before even entering school with the help of her mother. Parks became very aware of her black and white surrounding peers. She also worked as a field hand picking and chopping cotton.
Rosa’s mother was her teacher until age 11. She was then sent to Montgomery Industrial School where she attended her first public school and had her first Caucasian teacher. With her tonsillitis, she was out of school for quite some time, which set her back a year. Her mother paid her tuition to go to school, but eventually Parks had to become a scholarship girl. When her mother found out she had to walk through white neighborhoods to get to school, she decided that Park’s should return and move back in with her cousins. School in Montgomery taught her that she was “a person with dignity and self-respect, and [she] should not set [her] sights lower than anybody else just because [she] was black.” For 10th and 11th grade, she went to Alabama State Teachers’ College for Negroes, but ending up dropping out at the age of 16. She returned to Montgomery and get her first “public” job. She was upset about dropping out of school, but it was to help her grandmother. She later finished school after she was married.
A mutual friend introduced her to her husband. His name was Raymond Parks and he was a member of the NAACP. They got married in December of 1932 in Pine Level in her mother’s house. She went back to school to get her diploma and became a helper at St. Margaret’s Hospital. In 1941, she got a job at Maxwell Field, the local Army Air Force base. Her husband was an activist member, which she knew was extremely dangerous, but did not mind. Although she did not mind, when he would go to his meetings, she would often wonder if he would come home alive.
In the South, blacks’ did not vote, so Rosa’s husband got involved with voting registration. He was finally registered for the first time in Detroit, Michigan. With high hopes, Rosa Parks tried to register to vote, but got denied. She also tried a second time but was told she didn’t pass, with any specific reason as to why. Apparently the registrars could say and do whatever they stop blacks from not registering. The second attempt at registering to vote, she got kicked off of a Montgomery city bus because she refused to follow the “special black people rules.” The first front seats were reserved for whites, and the back seats for blacks. The blacks got on and paid their fee, but had to get back off and enter through the back of the bus. Parks did not feel the need to get back off and enter through the back, so the bus driver got angry with her and told her to get off the bus. She did, but she agreed to always look at the person driving the bus before getting back on because she did not want to have another run-in with that same bus driver.
She was a member of the NAACP, and eventually became the secretary. Her main role was to keep a record of any cases of discrimination or unfair treatments or acts of violence against blacks. Her other duties were to record and send membership payments to the national office, answer phones, write letters, and send out press releases to the newspapers. Many of the cases were thrown out, and much history was lost. The reason for keeping them was to let it be known that blacks did not wish to be treated like second-class citizens anymore.
Her brother, Sylvester, was drafted into the army in the early 1940’s and had a hard time adjusting when he returned home. Many black World War II veterans tried to register to vote, but were denied and treated with extreme disrespect, especially if they were in uniform. In the year 1949, Parks was the secretary of the Senior Branch of the NAACP and the adviser of the NAACP Youth Council. Virginia and Clifford Durr wanted to help Park’s end segregation. She visited Highlander to attend the workshops and was there for 10 days. Most of the workshops she went to were about desegregating schools. It was the few times in her life that she did not feel any hostility from whites.
A group of activists took a petition to the bus company officials and city of officials. The petition was asking for more courteous treatment and no visible signs of segregation. When Parks got off of work on December 1, 1955, she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. The bus driver was the same driver who kicked her off the first time, 12 year earlier. She was brought to jail. From then on, she never wanted to ride another segregated bus, even if that meant she had to walk to work. Mr. Nixon asked if she would be willing to make her case a test case against segregation. She agreed to it.
Mr. Nixon would report that Parks was the perfect plaintiff. She had no police record and had worked all of her life and had no children. She was found guilty of violating the segregation laws and given a suspended sentence. The crowd reacted negatively, but there was no organized protest. A brand new organization (MIA) was organized and Dr. King was elected president. The situation to carry out the bus boycott was discussed in the newly formed organization.
The bus boycott was still in effect, and both Parks and her husband lost their jobs, but were not fired. Parks started to travel and make speeches about her arrest and the boycott. She was on the executive board of directors of the MIA and also worked as the dispatcher for the MIA Transportation Committee. She went back to Montgomery and was invited to visit the Highlander Folk School in December. She believed that she was invited there to encourage them not to give up on integrating the schools. Also, African Americans in other cities such as Birmingham, Alabama, and Tallahassee Florid, started their own segregated bus boycotts.
Blacks were harassed in Alabama after the boycott ended, therefore, Park’s and her brother rented an upper apartment in Detroit in 1957 and lived with Park’s husband and mother to ensure a better life. She visited Boston, Massachusetts where she met the president of Hampton Institute, a black college in Hampton, Virginia. She was offered a job as a hostess. Back in Detroit, she attended SCLC conventions, marches, and demonstrations. She spoke at the 7th annual convention in Richmond, Virginia and also attended the March on Washington to push for federal civil-rights laws.
John Conyers asked for Parks endorsement. He won the election and he asked Park’s to work for him in his office in Detroit. She was the receptionist, office assistant, and helped find housing for the homeless. Parks felt as though she was losing everyone that she felt was good: Dr. King, Robert Kennedy, her husband, brother, and mother all in a short time frame. She founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in hopes to make the institute a community-center environment that will offer programs for the youth to help them further their education and provide hope for their future.
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