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Nearly 60 Years Ago Rosa Parks Refused To Change Seats On The Bus

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Rosa Parks. Image: National Archives and Records Administration Records of the U.S. Information Agency Record
Rosa Parks. Image: National Archives and Records Administration Records of the U.S. Information Agency Record

Yesterday (Dec. 1) was the anniversary of an important event in history.

Fifty-nine years ago, a woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus.

Why was that significant?

It was significant because Rosa Parks was black (African-American) and she was sitting in a “whites only” section of the bus.

In 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, only white people were allowed to sit in the first four rows of public buses. African-American people had to use the seats towards the back of the bus.

If someone who was African-American sat in the white section, they would be asked to move.

In this case, the bus was crowded and some white people needed a seat. So the driver asked Rosa Parks to give up her seat.

But she refused. She was tired after a long day working as a seamstress (sewer) in a department store and she felt she should have the right to sit anywhere she wanted. So she told the drive “no.”

And for that, she was arrested and charged with “disorderly conduct” and breaking a local law. After a very brief trial (just 30 minutes) she was found guilty and fined $10 plus $4 in court costs–a lot of money in those days.

She was also fired from her job.

The bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Image: Rmhermen
The bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Image: Rmhermen

Today, Rosa Parks is celebrated for her action and her bravery. Even though she knew she would suffer for it, she refused to give up her seat because it was unfair.

In the United States, Dec. 1 is a holiday called Rosa Parks Day.

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly and Joyce Grant

Writing/Discussion Prompt
Here are two more facts about the laws in those days in Alabama (according to Wikipedia):
1. Black people were not allowed to sit across the aisle in the same row as a white person.
2. Black people had to use the back doors of the bus, but they had to pay their fare at the front. So often they would have to use the front door, pay their fare, leave and then get back on using the back door.

How did you feel when you read this article and the facts listed above? Share your reaction with a friend or classmates.

Reading Prompt: Making Inferences/Interpreting Texts
According to Wikipedia, when the driver ordered her to move in order to let white people take her seat on the bus, Rosa Parks “felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

What do you think she meant by that?

Primary
Make inferences about texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts as evidence (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Junior
Use stated and implied ideas in texts to make inferences and construct meaning (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Intermediate
Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Language Feature: Synonyms 
By saying “no” when the bus driver asked her to move, Rosa Parks was incredibly brave. What other synonyms  for the word “brave” can you think of to describe Rosa Parks?