February 4, 2013 marks the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks. The Civil Rights Act was passed on July 2, 1964. And a year later, the Voting Rights Act was passed. Those two Acts were started in part by the courageous act of this one woman, Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women, at the workplace, in schools and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements. The long road towards the Civil Rights Act was fueled by Mrs. Parks. Today, in celebration of her 100th birthday, the U.S. Post office issued a stamp in her honor.
On February 4, 2013, the date of her birthday, President Obama issued a statement. “It has taken acts of courage from generations of fearless and hopeful Americans to make our country more just. As heirs to the progress won by those who came before us, let us pledge not only to honor their legacy, but also to take up their cause of perfecting our Union.”
The courage of Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in Jim Crow south to a white man showed —the value of courage in the face of injustice. The standard practice in the south was for a black person to give up their seat to a white person if the bus became crowded. Blacks had to sit near the rear of the bus. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks, a 42 year old seamstress was asked to give up her seat. She refused. And a legal battle ensued that started the civil rights battle in the courts. She was arrested and convicted for violating the segregation laws of the south. She appealed challenging the system of segregation.
Today in our society, there are still many injustices. Blacks,women and other minorities are free to sit on a public bus but are still subjected to many injustices and inequalities. Rosa Parks could have lost her life for what she did on December 1, 1955. Many of the bus drivers at the time carried guns.
No one should have to risk putting their life in jeopardy to speak out. The many injustices that exist today can be fought in the courts, online, in the public arena, in the community town hall, in state Capitols and at the U.S. Capitol. It only takes one courageous act to make a movement. Everyone will not make a statement like Rosa Parks that lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being passed. But everyone, in their own way can make a small statement whenever injustice is encountered.
The legacy of Rosa Parks is not just for African Americans but for everyone who cares about justice, fairness and equality. Rosa Parks once said, “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.”
As President Obama who was then Senator Obama spoke at her funeral in 2005 said, “The woman we honored today held no public office, she wasn’t a wealthy woman, didn’t appear in the society pages. And yet when the history of this country is written, it is this small, quiet woman whose name will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten.”
When we can stand up to injustice and inequality in small ways, we honor the American legacy of Rosa Parks.