This story was first published in 2013.
African American History Month celebrates big moments: changing the Constitution to end slavery, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the election of the first black president. But February’s celebration also marks small moments that led to big changes, such as a black woman’s refusal to give up her bus seat to a white person.
That woman was Rosa Parks, who was born February 4, 1913. Her action in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955, was intended to be a small protest.
“I had no idea that when I refused to give up my seat on that Montgomery bus that my small action would help put an end to segregation laws in the South,” Parks wrote in her autobiography for kids, “Rosa Parks: My Story.” “I only knew that I was tired of being pushed around.”
She was arrested and found guilty of violating segregation laws, rules that required black and white people to attend separate schools, drink from separate water fountains and sit in separate areas on buses. Lawyers filed a court case challenging the fairness of segregating buses. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that it was against the Constitution, and black people in Montgomery were allowed to sit in any bus seat. That victory led to many other challenges to segregation laws in the United States.
Parks became a hero of those fighting for equality for blacks. She died in 2005, and three schools in the Washington area are named in her honor.
Ransom Melettole, a sixth-grader at Hyattsville’s Rosa L. Parks Elementary, said he had heard the bus story several times but more recently began to understand the impact of Parks staying in her seat.
“I realized because she did that, it changed the way people thought about segregation,” Ransom said. “I think she was very courageous to do something like that.”
The school plans to broadcast some of Parks’s words during today’s morning announcements and to discuss her in classes.
Sixth-grader Natalie Gil-Davis said Parks’s story is an important lesson about equality.
“It doesn’t matter what color you are; we are all the same,” Natalie said. “We should be treated the same.”