We take many things for granted today. Cell phones. Facebook. The Superbowl. We sit comfortably in our homes watching sitcoms with our families and friends at night. Going to see movies with our loved ones while sharing a bag of popcorn. We look next to us and see unfamiliar faces that are familiar because we live in a time when it doesn’t matter who sits next to you. We all have the opportunity to hail a cab or catch the next flight to New York. The only thing that may cause us grief is that we have to wait too long in the security line at the air port. If you are lucky you can strike up a pleasant conversation with the person next to you otherwise its to your cell phone to check on the latest post of your favorite person on Facebook. In 1955, this wasn’t the case. We had separate bathrooms, entrances, water fountains and waiting areas for those that were anyone other than white. The only time you talked to a “colored person” as a “white person” was when they were telling them what to do. Times were different and public transportation was as equally segregated as the ways of life throughout most of the country but was heavily prominent in the south. As with today the bus was the main form of public transpiration in cities however one could not just sit were they liked. There was a “colored section” and a “whites section”. For ease of access and because it was thought that whites were a higher class than blacks, they sat in the front while the rest sat in the back. Much like going to a restaurant at the time, if you were black you did not walk in the front, there was a rear entrance in which no one could see you come in. Equality among all men was not something that was seen or practiced at this time. It was only in the hearts a large minority but would begin to boil over on a cold December day.
December 1, 1955 was a day like many others in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. It began as any other day began with people going to work, running errands, and going about a normal life. This day however, did more than end normally, it started a fire that could not be quelled. Around the six o’clock hour that evening, a young woman waited for a bus to take her home from work. She paid her fare, and chose her seat like she did every other day. She waited patiently on the ride home as the bus began to fill. As the trip continued on, the bus became more crowded. During a frequent stop along the route, the bus driver stood up and walked back to the rear of the bus moving the “colored section” sign back one row. This action was like stabbing a knife through the heart of ones soul. This young woman and her family had been harassed her entire life. Whether if was living in fear of the Klu Klux Klan or just the knowledge that you were looked upon as a second class citizen, she knew this was wrong and was finally too much for her to bear. She and 3 others on this row were asked to stand the rest of bus ride so the new “white” passengers could have a place to sit. As the row emptied for the new passengers, a young girl chose that this was the time to stand up and do the right thing for not only herself but for those who just stood up to move. Instead of standing up from her isle seat, she slid over to the window seat. In defiance of the bus driver and a law that was passed in 1900 to segregate passengers, Rosa Parks became an icon for a generation and further. She did not get to keep her seat. The bus driver had called the police and they arrested her. Rosa Parks, however, gained a greater seat than the one she refused to give away. She became the “mother of the civil rights movement.” She wasn’t the first to defy the law but what she said, by just sliding over, was the loudest. She lived to see the Civil Right movement through to almost it most fulfilling moment. Seeing the hatred and pain of a section of the nation she was born into pass before our eyes. One would believe she, like so many others, would have wept tears of joy to see the first black President of the United States of America. On February 4, 1913, 100 years to this day, Rosa Parks was born to this world in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was born in a nation were all men were not equal but died in one were they are. She may have been born to Alabama but she helped raise a nation to a higher place. Thank you Rosa Parks for what you did and Happy Birthday! To see the value of 100 years and how this great nation has changed.