She was “tired of giving in” — because she was sick and tired of this nonsense.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
“It didn’t make sense”
She was sick and tired of the nonsense of segregation.
“It didn’t make sense at all, being treated so unfairly”
The Montgomery Bus Boycott was on. For they knew they had someone who could stick it through thick and thin.
The fox knows many things,
but the hedgehog knows one big thing.
They could depend on her…
On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey bus driver James F. Blake‘s order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation. Others had taken similar steps in the twentieth century, including Irene Morgan in 1946, Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, and Claudette Colvin nine months before Parks. NAACP organizers believed that Parks was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience. [Wikipedia, revised]
They knew they had the right person to persist in the fight, for they knew her character: solid, dependable, honest, hard-working, down-to-earth, no nonsense. Implicitly, they saw her Temperament: A Guardian, the Cornerstone Temperament. A cornerstone to build on. More specifically, Rosa Parks was a Protector Guardian.
Wanting to be of service to others, Protectors find great satisfaction in assisting the downtrodden, and can deal with disability and neediness in others better than any other type. They are not as outgoing and talkative as the Provider Guardians [ESFJs], and their shyness is often misjudged as stiffness, even coldness, when in truth Protectors are warm-hearted and sympathetic, giving happily of themselves to those in need.
Their reserve ought really to be seen as an expression of their sincerity and seriousness of purpose. The most diligent of all the types, Protectors are willing to work long, hard hours quietly doing all the thankless jobs that others manage to avoid. [Please Understand Me II]
“The time I was on the bus and refused to stand up, it was principally because I felt my rights as a human being were being violated and that getting in and obeying the officers was not helping to make conditions better for me or any of the rest of us. And, it was only way I knew to let him and the, all world know that I wanted to be a respectable and respected citizen in the community.“
For, it wasn’t the first time she had an encounter with Blake.
One day in 1943, Parks boarded the bus and paid the fare. She then moved to her seat but driver James F. Blake told her to follow city rules and enter the bus again from the back door. Parks exited the bus, but before she could re-board at the rear door, Blake drove off, leaving her to walk home in the rain.
She knew that her cause was right. It had happened before, not to be forgotten Elizabeth Jennings and Ida B Wells, but this time Rosa Parks would have support that grew beyond her imagination: to the full blown Civil Rights Movement, with Martin Luther King, Jr. joining the cause directly because of her.
In December 1943, Parks became active in the Civil Rights Movement, joined the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, and was elected volunteer secretary. She later said, “I was the only woman there, and they needed a secretary, and I was too timid to say no.” But she had recently attended the Highlander Folk School, a Tennessee center for training activists for workers’ rights and racial equality. She acted as a private citizen “tired of giving in”. Although widely honored in later years, she also suffered for her act; she was fired from her job as a seamstress in a local department store. [Wikipedia]
Opportunities were few indeed. “Back then,” Mrs. Parks recalled in an interview, “we didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.”
On the night of Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Women’s Political Council, led by Jo Ann Robinson, printed a flyer to distributed throughout Montgomery’s black community. On the day of Parks’ trial, four days later from her arrest, the WPC had distributed the 35,000 leaflets. The handbill read,
“Another woman has been arrested and thrown in jail because she refused to get up out of her seat on the bus for a white person to sit down. It is the second time since the Claudette Colvin case that a Negro woman has been arrested for the same thing. This has to be stopped. Negroes have rights too, for if Negroes did not ride the buses, they could not operate. Three-fourths of the riders are Negro, yet we are arrested, or have to stand over empty seats. If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or mother. This woman’s case will come up on Monday. We are, therefore, asking every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest and trial. Don’t ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday. You can afford to stay out of school for one day if you have no other way to go except by bus. You can also afford to stay out of town for one day. If you work, take a cab, or walk. But please, children and grown-ups, don’t ride the bus at all on Monday. Please stay off all buses Monday.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. was drafted as the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Important during the bus boycott were the grass-roots activist groups which helped to catalyze both fund-raising and morale. Groups such as the Club from Nowhere helped to sustain the boycott by finding new ways of raising money and offering support to boycott participants. Many members of these organizations were women and their contributions to the effort have been described by some as essential to the success of the bus boycott. Pressure increased across the country and on June 4, 1956, the federal district court ruled that Alabama’s racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional. However, an appeal kept the segregation intact, and the boycott continued. On November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling, leading to a city ordinance that allowed black bus passengers to sit virtually anywhere they wanted. The boycott officially ended December 20, 1956, after 381 days.
“I did not feel any discouragement, I just felt that with the number of masses of people being involved and taking a part that it was not discouraging as it had been before the incidents and before others joined in. When you feel like others are with you, I don’t think you have, or feel the discouragement that you may feel apprehensive about the safety of some other people, or you may get weary because of meetings and taking, well my mother was ill quite a bit, and there were times when I could not participate as much as I wanted too but when she recovered, then, well, she always went with me and also my husband was at some of the meetings.”
She cited her lifelong acquaintance with fear as the reason for her relative fearlessness in deciding to appeal her conviction during the bus boycott.
“I didn’t have any special fear,” she said. “It was more of a relief to know that I wasn’t alone.”
She continued as secretary for the NAACP until 1957. From 1965 to 1988 she served as secretary and receptionist to John Conyers, an African-American U.S. Representative. Conyers comments on her include:
“You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene — just a very special person … There was only one Rosa Parks.”