Rosa Parks

The Phenomenal Legal Reformer


February 4th, 1913 - October 24th, 2005

Place of Birth: Alabama, United States

Education: Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes

Referred to as: "First Lady of Civil Rights" and "Mother of Freedom Movement"

Awards and Accomplishments:

  • NAACP Springarn Medal
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Award
  • Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award
  • 250th Congressional Gold Metal presented by Bill Clinton

What were the legal issues that Rosa Parks believed needed changing?

  • African-Americans were restricted of civil rights and liberties by Jim Crow laws
  • Jim Crow law: any laws that enforced racial segregation in the South
  • Rosa Parks challenged the following: all passenger stations in Alabama opened by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space, and ticket windows for the white and colored races.
  • In Montgomery: the bus drivers had the power of the police in enforcing the law on the bus. There was a line roughly in the middle of the bus separating white passengers in the front of the bus and African-American passengers in the back. When the seats filled up in the front, the bus driver would push the line back and require black passengers to give up their seat for the white person. If they refused, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and call the police to have them removed

Jim Crow Laws

What actions did the Rosa Parks take to bring about change?

SO.. She broke the law

  • December 1st of 1955
  • Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man and is ejected from a racially segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • The police arrested her at the scene and charged her with the violation of the Jim Crow law
  • December 5th was her trial and pleaded guilty. This triggered the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • This protest was led by Dr. Martin Luther King and E.D Nixon

How successful were they? What opposition or adversity did they face?

  • City buses were almost empty
  • Some people carpooled and others rode in African-American operated cabs, but most African-American commuters walked to work. This went on for several months. Dozens of public buses empty, ultimately crippling finances for its transit company
  • Strong resistance - some segregationists retaliated with violence, insurance was canceled for the city taxi system that was used by African-Americans and black citizens were arrested for violating an antiquity law prohibiting boycotts
  • Legal Action: June 1956, the district court ruled racial segregation laws unconstitutional. The city of Montgomery appealed to the court's decision, but on November 19, 1956 the US Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling
  • With financial disadvantage and legal system ruling against them, Montgomery lifted its enforcement of segregation on public buses
  • The boycott officially ended on December 20th, 1956

What legal tradition was Rosa Parks most likely influenced by?

  • Natural Law theorists believe that just because a law is written down, does not mean that it is just and that civilians have a duty to disobey an unjust law.
  • Since, Rosa Parks used civil disobedience to make a point clear that the Jim Crow laws were unfair and immoral makes her highly motivated by natural law. Whereas, positive law believes that people must obey the law whether it is just or not.

What Primary or Secondary sources or factors of change influenced the event or change of attitude?

  • A number of factors influenced this event
  • A primary source that influenced Rosa Parks civil disobedience is the influence of social and political philosophy. In the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, overturned segregation in schools.
  • Laws change as society changes. African-Americans had enough of the mistreatment and restrictions due to the Jim Crow laws. This resulted in a number of civil disobedience, protests, boycotts to end segregation
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What lasting effects did Rosa Parks have on the law?

  • Rosa Parks was the beginning of the end of the Jim Crow laws in the southern states of America
  • Her civil disobedience ushered the Civil Rights Movement to full effect by inspiring African-Americans to fight for desegregation. This is demonstrated through the Little Rock Nine, sit-ins and freedom riders.
  • Her life was a testament to the power of one

"You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right"

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