Today’s Cool Shirt Friday and Black History Month edition is in tribute to Rosa Parks.
For a full biography on Rosa Parks you can look at the biography.com profile here.
On December 1, 1955, after a long day’s work at a Montgomery department store, where she worked as a seamstress, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for “colored” passengers. Though the city’s bus ordinance did give drivers the authority to assign seats, it didn’t specifically give them the authority to demand a passenger to give up a seat to anyone (regardless of color). However, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the custom of requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers, when no other seats were available. If the black passenger protested, the bus driver had the authority to refuse service and could call the police to have them removed.
As the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. The driver demanded, “Why don’t you stand up?” to which Rosa replied, “I don’t think I should have to stand up.” The driver called the police and had her arrested. Later, Rosa recalled that her refusal wasn’t because she was physically tired, but that she was tired of giving in.
The police arrested Rosa at the scene and charged her with violation of Chapter 6, Section 11, of the Montgomery City Code. She was taken to police headquarters, where, later that night, she was released on bail.
In Middle School, when webcasts were still in their infancy, I had the privilege to watch to Rosa Parks speak live to children across the country during one of my classes. It’s reassuring to know that while there is power in the word, “Yes” that at times, there is equal or more power in saying, “No” when something isn’t right, and there’s a need to stand up for what is.
With that being said, today I salute Rosa Parks. In an era when there were battles to fight for the rights that today are taken for granted, she was at the forefront and worked to ensure a better future for all.
-Cool Shirt Guy, signing off