55 years ago today…..

On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James Blake’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger – Parks’ action sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks’ act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and she became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including boycott leader Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to launch him to national prominence in the civil rights movement.

“My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest…I did a lot of walking in Montgomery.” Parks had her first run-in on the public bus on a rainy day in 1943, when the bus driver, James F. Blake, demanded that she get off the bus and re-enter through the back door. As she began to exit by the front door, she dropped her purse. Parks sat down for a moment in a seat for white passengers to pick up her purse. The bus driver was enraged and barely let her step off the bus before speeding off.

After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the “colored” section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers. Initially, she had not noticed that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded.

Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three men standing, and thus moved the “colored” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit. Years later, in recalling the events of the day, Parks said, “When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats ….

…… I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

By Parks’ account, Blake said, “Y’all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats.” Three of them complied. Parks said, “The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn’t move at the beginning, but he says, ‘Let me have these seats.’ And the other three people moved, but I didn’t.” The black man sitting next to her gave up his seat. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the newly repositioned colored section. Blake then said, “Why don’t you stand up?” Parks responded, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” Blake called the police to arrest Parks. When recalling the incident for Eyes on the Prize, a 1987 public television series on the Civil Rights Movement, Parks said, “When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you don’t stand up, I’m going to have to call the police and have you arrested.’ I said, ‘You may do that.'”

20 Responses to “55 years ago today…..”

  1. 1 ari
    December 1, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Great Woman, great story, and what a fab poster at the end.

  2. 3 danadevin74
    December 1, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Courage in the face of injustice

  3. 4 Lexusv
    December 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

    I never tire of reading/hearing this story of raw courage in the face of horrible possibilities. We all have such a huge debt to pay. I will be forever thankful to Ms. Parks and all of the past and present champions of good.

  4. 5 Kelly
    December 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

    *tears up* Beautiful strong lady.

  5. 6 Perry
    December 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

    This is truly moving…wonderful illustration. Dignity in the face of all that rage/hatred.

  6. December 1, 2010 at 11:16 am


  7. 8 Teri
    December 1, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Beautiful post, and as Perry said, very moving.

    I’m thrilled to have found your site, Chipsticks. Love it!

  8. 10 Jessica
    December 1, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Who came up with that Rosa sat/Martin walked/Obama run line? Was it Jay-Z he’s the only other person I’ve really heard say it. It’s quite clever.

  9. 11 CR
    December 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you Chipsticks! Thank you Ms Parks for standing up and leading so to make life better for future generations

  10. 12 Thro67
    December 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Talked to my mother about this yesterday – she lived through Apartheid in Southern Africa. We were talking about the level of frustration that Rosa Parks must have felt that day, which gave her courage to stand up for her right to sit down wherever she wanted to on a bus, like any other human being. My mother said that there comes a time when you just can’t tolerate any more, not one more bit. It’s amazing what evil people do to each other, and how some choose to handle it. Her quiet dignity in standing/sitting her ground isn’t recognized as a strength any more in this bully-led society. Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks would all be run out of town, being called weak and all other manner of insults – and the world wouldn’t have made the great strides forward it has made through the quiet courageous acts of these fine, proud individuals – including President Obama, who continues to endure.

  11. 13 Sue in Minnesota
    December 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    And the work continues….stay strong everyone. President Obama exemplifies the wisdom of Ghandi,”We must be the change we want to see in the world”. Lets all strive to follow his example.

    Chipsticks, I have I told you lately how awesome you are? Everyday I am grateful for the effort you put into spreading the good news! The three things I value most in my fellow human beings is on display here everyday, Heart, Intelligence and Humor.

  12. 14 Sankofa
    December 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks for the reminder article and unfortunately the battle continues. I STILL support President Barack Hussein Obama for being the president of all of the United States, no matter what the right or left crazies want him to do. He goes about the business of governing with quiet dignity and resolve.

  13. 15 debra
    December 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    There was just a news conference on TV with President Obama, Collin Powell and a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr in the background. That was a great picture and the legacy of Rosa Parks

  14. 17 Bobbie
    December 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    As time goes on I understand our president more and more, and after watching the video of Rosa Parks it only solidifies my support for this President.

    Where some sees weakness because he doesn’t display his temper like some modern day cowboy, I see a man that has a quiet strength that can not be shaken by those on the right or those fair weather friends on the left. He goes about his day doing the people’s business as he was elected to do, while those on both sides of the aisle ignore the improving economy.I have been around for many presidents and never have I seen one attacked so viciously by his own side

    I am and will always be a proud and liberal democrat who refuse to be called a progressive, after all if it was good enough when we were marching for civil rights in the sixties and seventies, I would not demean myself to discard that title just to evolve into a modern day progressive calling for a primary challenge of the first black president because he hasn’t moved fast enough or jumped high enough at your bequest.

    I have been contemplating for a while and been mulling over the idea of going Independent after the 2012 elections, This Progressive agenda of burning the house down if we don’t get what we want has really started to tear at the fabric of the democratic party as a whole.

    This site and others like it has become a welcomed refuge, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to post something like this without being attacked for not joining in the melee of hate.

    • 18 Thro67
      December 1, 2010 at 9:57 pm

      Perhaps Progressives need their own party, where they can pursue their ineffective tantrums without harming good, decent people.

      • December 1, 2010 at 10:19 pm

        Although they’d have no right to call themselves ‘Progressives’ – they are anything but that, their worst nightmare is progress because when it’s made (as it has been under this President) they have fewer reasons to whine and wallow in self-pity.

    • 20 jonnie rae
      December 3, 2010 at 3:18 am

      I agree with everything you said. Our President is presidential. He has a quiet dignity like Rosa Parks, actually. And I am grateful also to have the opportunity to express this without being attacked.

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