Editorial: Rosa Parks' legacy: non-violent power
By: JON M. HUNTER
Rosa Parks, known by some people as the "mother of the civil rights movement," died last week at age 92.|
On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks was riding on a Montgomery, Ala., bus when a white man demanded her seat. She refused, despite rules requiring blacks to yield their seats to whites. Two black Montgomery women had been arrested earlier that year on the same charge, but Mrs. Parks was jailed. She also was fined $14.
Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Montgomery bus boycott, which came one year after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark declaration that separate schools for blacks and whites were "inherently unequal," marked the start of the modern civil rights movement. The movement culminated in the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations.
In our opinion, her simple, non-violent protest was the catalyst for improved civil rights. In some senses, it's hard to see today how powerful it was. Had she responded in a violent manner, the incident would have been ignored, or even characterized as another reason why blacks didn't "deserve" equal status.
Parks believed in the power of non-violent protest and the power of education. She published three books, including "Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation." While quite poor herself, she helped establish the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation to fund college educations. Fittingly, scholarships are available to anyone, regardless of race.
Even so, she urged young black people to learn about the beginning of the civil rights movement. "We must double and redouble our efforts," she said in 1988, "to try to give them an inspiration, an incentive and the will to study our heritage and to know what it means to be black in America today."
At a celebration in her honor that same year, she said: "I am leaving this legacy to all of you...to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die -- the dream of freedom and peace."