African-American activist Rosa Parks (1913-2005) famously stood up for the Civil Rights Movement by sitting down in a segregated section of a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955.
Jailed for refusing to give up her seat at the front of the bus at a time when segregation laws reserved the section for whites only, Parks quickly became a symbol of the freedom movement.
The storied Montgomery Bus Boycott followed Parks’ civil disobedience; Blacks refused to ride buses in the Southern city for a full year until the Supreme Court ruled bus segregation laws unconstitutional.
Other African-Americans had previously defied the unjust law—Irene Morgan, Sarah Louise Keys, Claudette Colvin and Lizzie Jennings among them—but the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) decided to use 42-year-old Parks as a case study to challenge racial segregation.
An NAACP secretary at the time, Parks soon began organizing protests with civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Decades after the bus boycott and passage of the Civil Rights Act, Parks championed the cause of education. She co-founded both the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation for high-school seniors headed to college, and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development.
Parks’ 1995 memoir, Quiet Strength, details her experience with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and her dedication to higher education for African-American youth.