Full Citation

  • Title America pays its respects to the mother of civil rights movement
  • Author reid, tim
  • Publication Title The Times
  • Collection The Times Digital Archive, 1785-2008
  • Date Wednesday,  Oct. 26, 2005
  • Issue Number 68528
  • Page Number 47
  • Place of Publication London, England
  • Language English
  • Document Type Article
  • Publication Section News
  • Source Library Times Newspapers Limited
  • Copyright Statement © Times Newspapers Limited.
America pays its respects to the mother of civil rights movement From Tim Reid in Washington PRESIDENT Bush yesterday led an outpouring of national reverence for Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus led to the civil rights movement and turned the black seamstress into one of America's heroes. Mrs Parks died in her sleep on Monday evening, aged 92, surrounded by family and friends at home in Detroit. The extent of her legacy was laid bare as liberal and conservative politicians united to praise the woman whose simple act of disobedience sparked a race 'relations revolution. "Today, America honours the memory of one of the most inspiring women of the 20th century," Mr Bush said, as he began a speech to an audience of military officers' wives. "Fifty years ago, in Montgomery, Alabama, this humble seamstress stood up to injustice by refusing a bus driver's order that she give up her seat for a white man. Her show of defiance was an act of personal courage that moved millions, including a young preacher named Martin Luther King. Rosa Parks helped transform America for the better. She will always have a special place in American history." At the time of her protest, Mrs Parks, then 42, could not have known just what a profound influence her act was to have on the nation. Her role as the "mother of the civil rights movement" is taught in all American schools, and in 1999, three years after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honour. On December 1, 1955, Mrs Parks, an active member of the local chapter of the National BETTMANN/CORBIS / Rosa Parks on a bus after the 1956 Supreme Court ruling that racial segregation on the transport system was unconstitutional Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was riding on a bus when a white man demanded her seat. At the time, laws in the Deep South required racial separation in many public places. Blacks could sit on bus seats reserved for whites if whites did not want them, but on this evening, the bus driver and the passenger demanded that she move. She refused, was jailed and fined $10. Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system. Her case reached the US Supreme Court, which ruled in 1956 that segregation on Alabama's public transport was unconstitutional. The movement culminated in the great civil rights legislation of the 1960s, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 1992, Mrs Parks, who left the South to live in Detroit, said that on one point, history had misinterpreted her act of disobedience. She said it was often taught that "my feet were hurting and I didn't know why I refused to stand up when they told me. But the real reason of my not standing up was I felt I had the right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long." Ted Kennedy, the Democrat senator, said: "The nation lost a courageous woman and a true American hero. Her quiet fight for equality sounded the bell of freedom for millions." Bill Frist, Republican Leader ofthe Senate, called Mrs Parks "a champion of principle, and a true hero". He said: "All Americans should know Mrs Parks's extraordinary story, how her refusal to give up a seat... led to the great and historic civil rights movement that remade our nation." Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said her defiance showed how the peaceful actions of a seamstress "could change for the better the lives of millions". Obituary, page 70 www.timesonline.co.uK/americas Rosa Parks picture gallery