THE LIFE of ROSA PARKS
On 1 December 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a quiet and dignified 42-year-old black seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. Her arrest led to a 381-day boycott of the city's bus system, led by Martin Luther King, which is now considered the beginning of the American civil rights movement. Rosa Parks' personality and character were an important part of the bus boycott's success. Graceful, reserved and a devout churchgoer, she was also a civil rights activist alongside her daytime job as a seamstress, and she believed in the use of righteous force when necessary. The boycott was an epic event. In 1957 she and her husband moved north to Detroit, where she continued to work for civil rights, taking part in most of the great marches of the 1960s, although she found the male chauvinism of these events increasingly unacceptable. She was a great admirer of Martin Luther King, and he of her, and his assassination in 1968 was a bitter blow. After King's death, the movement began to lose its way and Rosa Parks believed that anger and violence were replacing non-violent social protest. In later years she seemed almost a forgotten figure, but in the 1990s this appeared to be changing. In 1999, Time magazine hailed her as one of the hundred most significant individuals of the century, and there were plaudits from the Pope, Nelson Mandela and others.