On December 1, 1955, the Montgomery Advertiser included a small paragraph about a Black woman who had violated the city’s Jim Crow law on public transportation.
“Negro jailed here for ‘overlooking’ bus segregation.”
Curious headline, because the then 42-year-old Rosa Parks did not overlook the rules that required Black bus riders to give up their seats to White riders and enter the bus from the side door, while Whites entered from the front. Parks purposely broke the segregationist law after having discussed doing so as part of an effort to bring attention to injustice.
Popular myth surrounding Park’s brave act once alleged that Parks refused to give up her seat because she was tired. In actuality, she told the press years later that, if she was tired of anything, she was tired of being treated badly.
She and members of the Montgomery Improvement Association, along with labor leader and organizer ED Nixon, had been discussing and planning to organize to resist Montgomery’s Jim Crow laws in general, and the bus discrimination in particular.
She was taken off the bus and arrested and charged with “ignoring a bus driver who had directed her to sit in the rear of the bus.”
She was eventually released and fined $14 for breaking state law. What has become known to history as the Montgomery Bus Boycott began just days after her arrest.
The boycott has been seen as the seminal event in the struggle for civil rights by Blacks in the U.S.
The boycott ended on December 20, 1956. Parks, who passed in 2005, received the Martin Luther King Jr. Award and the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.
Montgomery also honored Parks with a museum in her name.