From Montgomery to Detroit: Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks and Bill Clinton | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Winner of the Fall 2017 StMU History Media Award for

Best Article in the Category of “Social History”

Rosa Parks, a strong, independent Civil Rights Activist, stood up for what she believed in. She’s known for her courageous acts dealing with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the early phase of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. But what happened in her life after these important events?

As we know, Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955. She entered the bus, saw that it was quite crowded with one seat available located in the front “Whites Only” section of the bus. As more passengers boarded the bus, the bus driver demanded that he needed the seat Rosa was sitting in. She refused, and she was arrested.1

Rosa Parks being booked | 1955 | Courtesy of America’s Library

After her arrest on that December 1, 1955, Edgar Nixon, another Civil Rights Activist, paid her one-hundred-dollar bond. Immediately following her bail, she proceeded to file a lawsuit against the National City Lines bus company for its segregation practices. After weeks and weeks of this being an active case, the judges finally concluded. The court ruled bus segregation to be unconstitutional. The year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott finally came to a victorious end in Alabama in December 1956.2 During the boycott, Parks was invited by the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) to come to Detroit to speak to the union’s members. Local members of the UAW even raised the money to bring Rosa in. She stayed at the Garfield Hotel because blacks were not allowed to enter or reside at any downtown hotels. The mayor of the suburb of Dearborn had made his views on segregation clear: “Negroes can’t get in here. . . These people are so anti-colored, much more than you in Alabama.”3 Rosa Parks speech about the Montgomery boycott had a great impact on the UAW membership in Detroit.

Rosa Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Her leadership skills and perseverance led to multiple doors opened for her, although at first she and her husband found getting employment difficult. In 1957, Rosa Parks moved to Detroit where her brother Sylvester lived. In 1964, Parks helped John Conyers campaign for Congressman, fighting for “jobs, justice, and peace” for Michigan’s first Congressional District. Certain laws prohibited some of Detroit’s residents from voting. Rosa was able to help Conyers win the election by obtaining the help of Martin Luther King. With King’s endorsement, Conyers won by a margin of 84%. Conyers then hired Rosa Parks as his secretary and receptionist, a position she held until 1988. Her daily tasks included dealing with issues such as, education, housing, and segregation.4

White’s protest against black migration | 1963 | Courtesy of Jeanne Theoharis

The Detroit that Rosa Parks moved to in 1957 was highly segregated. After World War II, Virginia Park, the historic district of Detroit where Parks lived, had become overcrowded, like many other sections of Detroit where African Americans were restricted. The district was further disrupted by the building of a highway, requiring the relocation of 43,000 citizens of Detroit, 70% of whom were African American. This led to increased frustration by Detroit’s African-American population, who were denied access to Detroit’s suburb housing, but told that Detroit was “colorblind” when it came to housing discrimination.5 When blacks attempted to move into the white suburban areas, realtors discouraged them and banks were very hesitant to make housing loans to them. If they succeeded, violence typically followed. By 1963, black citizens began to protest these closed housing practices. On June 23, 1963, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King joined to lead Detroit’s Great March to Freedom to protest these unfair housing practices. This march drew a crowd over 200,000 people.6

Rosa also recognized that inner-city black students in Detroit, as elsewhere, didn’t receive the kind of preparation in their public schools to go to college. Growing up, Rosa herself barely had the opportunity to attend school, let alone college. With the assistance of Representative John Conyers, she raised government funds to open the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation. This Foundation gives Michigan high school seniors the opportunity to pursue a college education when they exemplify the ideals of demonstrating academic skills, community involvement, and economic need. This has been very beneficial for hundreds of students from poor Michigan communities since its founding in 1980. Although the process of creating this scholarship was very rigorous, Rosa was able to accomplish this goal.2

On October 24, 2005, Rosa Parks died from natural causes. She is still recognized to this day for her courageous acts.8

  1. Julie Bosman, Once A Stop for Rosa Parks (New York: The New York Times, 2016), 2-3.
  2. Julie Bosman, Once A Stop for Rosa Parks (New York: The New York Times, 2016), 2-3.
  3. Jeanne Theoharis, “The Northern promised Land that wasn’t: Rosa Parks and the Black Freedom struggle in Detroit,” OAH Magazine of History Vol. 26 No. 1 (2012): 23-24.
  4. Jeanne Theoharis, “The Northern promised Land that wasn’t: Rosa Parks and the Black Freedom struggle in Detroit,” OAH Magazine of History Vol. 26 No. 1 (2012): 22-25.
  5. Jeanne Theoharis, “The Northern promised Land that wasn’t: Rosa Parks and the Black Freedom struggle in Detroit,” OAH Magazine of History Vol. 26 No. 1 (2012): 24.
  6.  Jeanne Theoharis, “The Northern promised Land that wasn’t: Rosa Parks and the Black Freedom struggle in Detroit,” OAH Magazine of History Vol. 26 No. 1 (2012): 24.
  7. Julie Bosman, Once A Stop for Rosa Parks (New York: The New York Times, 2016), 2-3.
  8. Brinkley Douglas, Rosa Parks: A Penguin Life (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), 27-35.
From Montgomery to Detroit: Rosa Parks
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  • Usually, the story of Rosa Parks is the same rehash of events and facts yet you managed to cover her story really well and maintain an engaged tone throughout the whole article. If anyone needed to learn more about her, I would refer them to your article because it’s important that people understand who she was and why she is an important figure in American history. Thank you!

  • I’ve always had the upmost respect for this woman and I aspire to one day have such a societal impact that one day I might be in the same sentence as her when someone is talking about positive influence. This article was very informative and allowed me, the reader, to find a sense of encouragement to not be intimidated by the societal constructs I face today. Its amazing how a single drop can make such an effect on a pond. Great article.

  • Rosa Parks is actually an amazing person with a lot courage for what she did. She did not matter and always stood for what she thought it was justice. Even though she went to jail she actually was important piece for the civil rights movement. I like how the story is narrated. Great article and keep it up with the good work!

  • Rosa Parks is no doubt one of my absolute idols. She stood up for what she knew in her heart was the right thing to do. To have her right be taken away by the acts of who were in power at the time, she never wavered and that s why we all know her name today. I always admired her and her own ways of doing things which were incredibly successful. Being arrested for something we all see as normal today speaks volumes to just how important everyday actions we take as human beings can be on the rest of the world and how they can positively affect those around us. I knew her story well but I didn’t know that soon after her arrest Edger Nixon paid her bail money and got her out. Great article!

  • Rosa Parks is such an inspiration to women of all types; specially the ones who are into the civil rights movement. Thanks to Parks there were so many changes for people with color be it man or women. The bravery and courage it took to do all that she did is incredible, if all women were like that I’m sure women would dominate the world.

  • Rosa Parks continues to be an inspiration to not only African Americans but to all of us. Throughout school, we knew the story of Parks refusing to get out of her seat on the bus. Like, myself included that was pretty much the extent of it, by reading this article I learned many new things that she was able to accomplish after those events occurred. Rosa Parks will continue to be an influential role model for years to come.

  • Well written article about such an important woman who contributed so much towards the movement towards equality. She made such a huge movement by something that at the time seemed to small, not giving up her seat on the bus. Without this small protest, who knows how fast the movement towards equality would have started. It is interesting the way the article goes into detail about her life after her arrest and how she got the recognition she well deserved.

  • I am pretty sure everyone knows the remarkable and exceptional woman Rosa Parks. She is probably one of the most iconic and memorable women in civil rights history in the United States. This article was a great read. I enjoyed the set up of your article since it went over much of what she did. Anyway, good work on this article on the memorable Rosa Parks, she is such an extraordinary woman who stood up and did something.

  • I really enjoyed reading this article and learning more about the brave and incredible women named, Rosa Parks. She was well-known for the Montgomery-bus-boycott and breaking the rules to stand up for what she believed in. Her actions lead the way to open many doors for other black citizens just like herself. Her perseverance to make a change in the world attracted many individuals who went a long fighting to put an end to segregation.

  • Rosa Parks was truly an iconic woman, she stood for civil rights and education equality during a time when the color of your skin dictated how successful you were and where you lived. I remember learning about her in school and being surprised that all it took to change the course of history was the simple act of her saying “No.”

  • This is an amazing article, Rosa Parks is such an amazing person and in american history. Her strength is truly very inspiring and admirable. It is really interesting how we all know the story about Rosa Parks and how she strongly refused to give up her seat, but no one really knows her full story. It honestly is really interesting to learn about her whole life and what led up to that point. Very interesting and well written article.

  • I have always loved reading about Rosa Parks, she is such an inspiring person and her strength is truly so strong. It is really interesting how we all know the story about Rosa Parks and how she strongly refused to give up her seat, but no one really knows her full story. It honestly is really interesting to learn about her whole life and what led up to that point. Very interesting and well written article.

  • Another win for Detroit. IM sorry but I’m from Detroit Michigan, and we have so much history that changed the world. all those civil rights movements. Detroit is one of the most strongest cities. all the riots, growing up i didn’t understand why it looked like that with all the burnt buildings you could just see the pain and misery. I’m proud that Rosa kept fighting even when their was no hope , she was a unselfish women, she cared for the young education and jobs for others. when i lived in Detroit we had t got to a catholic school because the publics school was so bad, Detroit still has some work to do but one day it will be the big dream city again.

  • Rosa Parks and her story are well known by most if not all Americans. Her bravery to say no, and stand her ground showed the type of attitude blacks had to have in order to stop being discriminated against. There was no need to be treated differently from other people and so that needed to change. I liked the way you wrote this article because it makes you feel the frustration people were facing in Detroit at the time. Overall, this was an interesting and informative article, keep up the great work.

  • Rosa Park is so inspirational she fought her way for justice and did not let anyone or theory stand in her way. She was able to change the law by arrest. Park did not stop there but she marched with Martin Luther King Jr. to stand up for civil rights. Then she created a scholarship which has changed many people’s lives. She was a strong, independent, smart women who fight until the very end of life for more justice in this world.

  • Rosa Parks is definitely one of the first faces to come to mind when people think of the civil rights movement. It was extremely courageous of her to stand up in the face of discrimination and say that white people are in no way more valuable than black. It is still a concept today, where racism has become more obvious because the bigots of the country believe they do not have to hide their ways because of the current presidents encouragement of white pride. It has been over fifty years sine the brave acts of the civil rights movement, and I hope that the majority of the country, today, can continue to fight for equal treatment in this country.

  • Great article! I had never heard about Rosa parks before. However, it was interesting to know that she was an inspirational woman who made a great impact on the civil rights movement in the United States. Moreover, it is really inspiring that she spoke up for what she believed in no matter what the consequences might be. To sum it up, I really loved reading your article. It was a good read.

  • Every year I remember learning about Rosa Parks, she is one of the most iconic civil rights members and just about everyone has heard of her. This article reflected that and to a very good story. I like how this article flowed it was very well formatted. Rosa Parks is a huge reason for progression in the USA, and we wouldn’t be where we are without her efforts.Congrats to you combine man!!!

  • Rosa Parks was an inspiration to many African American citizens during the Civil Rights Movement. This article does justice to her lifelong commitment to the fight for equal civil rights. The article has a wonderful story arc that displays some of the most important and memorable events in the life of this courageous and tenacious women. Her work and activism will forever be remembered and admired.

  • Rose Parks was such as inspiration by standing up for what she believed in. What she did on the bus that day was historical and is still taught in schools through out the country today. However not many people know about what happened after myself included. This article showed us as readers the events that happened after words. Over all this was a great article.

  • This was an interesting article, most of the stories that I have heard about Rosa Parks is just that she refused to give up her seat and got arrested for it. However, I didn’t know all of the things that she did after those events. She is truly an inspiration to many, she is someone who everyone should look up to and aspire to be more like.

  • Rosa Parks was a major contribution in the Civil Rights Movement, because of her boycott on a Montgomery Bus. Parks was a brave-women, considering she knew she would be jailed for not giving up her seat. In fact, the strict segregation laws that were enforced were immoral, especially for forcing African Americans to give up their seats when using public transportation. Overall, this article was well-structure and enjoyable to read.

  • The story of Rosa Parks will forever be one of those stories you grow up listening to and will continue to tell no matter how old you are, this women is such an important part of the Civil Rights history in the United States that her legacy continues to reach the hearts and minds of those who quite don’t understand what African Americans had o go through at the time. She teaches a very valuable lesson, she simply spoke and stood up for what she believed in.

  • I have heard the courageous story of Rosa Parks many, many times before, but still, it is a story that I will truly never get tired of hearing. Rosa lived through the difficult hardships that came with being a colored female back then, but also used her great passion to make a great impact on society right after. After the bus incident, Parks’ life changed completely, and I very much admire how you showed that side of the story for a change.

  • I believe you made a good connection with the reader during your introduction and following paragraph as you addressed us in a very informal and friendly way. A lot of information on parks was included within your article that I had never heard of before, for example that she lead Detroit’s Great March to Freedom with King and that she raised funds to open up her own scholarship foundation.

  • Rosa Parks is one of the first women in history to stand up for what she believes in. She is amazing for the brave acts she has done. As a Civil Rights activist, she stood up against the segregation laws peacefully, which makes her mature. While others violently riot, she disagreed with respect. I did know she actually continued to fight peacefully after the bus situation. I really liked this article because it explains what Ms. Parks action were after she was wrongfully imprisoned.

  • Very good introduction, you give a very clear explanation of what you will talk about. Rosa Park’s immensely brave objection stands as one of the most historic moments of America. What I find great about your article is that although you briefly mention the Bus incident, you don’t stop there. You talk about Rosa Park’s life after that, which is something not many now. How her personal crusade towards the end of segregation would fill the rest of her life. Even joining forces with MLK. Overall, great work!

  • Great article! Rosa Parks is an outstanding historical figure that is still brought up, and will be brought up for a great deal of time in the future. This article definitely gave Rosa Parks life throughout all the specific and deep detail! Most people just know of what she did but not what happened after and I loved that type of approach that you took! You made it known that even though she had, what at the time seemed like a minor setback, she was able to live life greatly after.

  • Great Article! Rosa Parks was such an inspirational person. She spoke up for what she believed in no matter the consequences. But she really did make a change which resulted in the people in this world to come together. This article did a very great job in using the right wording to allow the reader to find out how Rosa Parks felt in the situation she was in and also how people felt about her. I think that it was great for the writer to write from the position of what happened after the incident and not just about what happened.

  • Many times in history we remember a person based on a single act they perform. That is certainly the case with Rosa Parks. So this article covers a great topic. I would have never known that Parks worked to end segregation of communities of the North, or that Detroit was more prejudiced than Alabama. This article is well written and covers the later work of Parks well.

  • Great article! Rosa Parks was such an inspirational woman who made a great impact on the civil rights movement in the United States. I like how you wrote this article in a different point of view rather than just telling the story of Rosa Parks. It is very interesting to me to hear about people after their great event in life to see how they are.

  • The story of Rosa Parks is a great one. It is instrumental to the Civil rights movement in the United States. This article used great language in order to create a feeling that captures how people feel about Rosa and how she felt of her situation. Its great how the article also went at this story from a different view other than just what happened, but actually her life after it. Great article.

  • The story of Rosa Parks has always been one of the most iconic and important in Civil Rights history in the United States. This article gave a great ode to that story, for you were able to give the detail of the incident and the outcome of her arrest. I liked how you gave, in sequential order, her life after her arrest, for most people may have thought that her life was over. Great article.

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