Elaine Woo: Rosa Parks Set Wheels Of Justice In Motion

Roundup: Talking About History

Rosa Parks, the Alabama seamstress whose simple act of defiance on a segregated Montgomery bus in 1955 stirred the nonviolent protests of the modern civil rights movement and catapulted an unknown minister named Martin Luther King Jr. to international prominence, died Monday of natural causes at her home in Detroit. She was 92.

Often called the mother of the movement that led to the dismantling of institutionalized segregation in the South, Parks became a symbol of human dignity when she was jailed for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white man when she rode home from work on the evening of Dec. 1, 1955.

Her arrest for violating Alabama's bus segregation laws galvanized Montgomery's blacks, who boycotted the city's buses for 381 days until the U.S. Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional.

"Her legacy was her quiet dignity and instinctive rage against injustice," Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) told the Times on Monday night. "What she determined on the spot was that her dignity would not allow her to be treated unjustly."
Memorialized in poetry, dance and song, Parks was, by most accounts, both simpler and more complex than the mythology that grew around her.

She was born Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Ala., to Leona Edwards, a teacher, and James McCauley, a carpenter and builder. Her parents split up when she was 5, prompting her mother to move Rosa and her younger brother Sylvester to live with family in Pine Level, a small town near Montgomery.

Some of her early memories were of white people who treated blacks kindly, particularly a Yankee soldier who said she was cute and "treated me like I was just another little girl, not a little black girl," Parks wrote in her 1992 autobiography, "Rosa Parks: My Story."

[Editor's Note: This is a very short excerpt from a much longer piece. Please see the LA Times for more.]

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