10 Rosa Parks Facts for Kids: First Lady of Civil Rights

Many people know Rosa Parks as “the mother of the civil rights movement,” but do you know what she did? Learn Rosa Parks facts about her famous stand for civil rights and the changes that she made for Black Americans in the United States.

Rosa Parks receives the Congressional Gold Medal, 1999 Rosa Parks receives the Congressional Gold Medal, 1999

Rosa Parks' Main Claim to Fame

In December 1955, Rosa Parks made headlines for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. She was arrested and lost her trial. But she sparked a revolution. However, this wasn't the only interesting thing about Rosa Parks' impressive life as a civil rights activist. Rosa Parks was an exceptional woman with a long history of activism. Learn some fun Rosa Parks facts that you might not know.

1. Long History of Activism

Before her famous stand on the Montgomery bus, Rosa Parks was involved in fighting for all Americans' civil rights. This stems back from seeing the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in her youth with her father and grandfather. Though Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955, she’d been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1943.

2. Secretary for NAACP

Years before becoming a leader in the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks worked behind the scenes. She was pivotal in helping to investigate brutality and discrimination cases, attended leadership training and even became E.D. Nixon’s secretary.

3. Rosa Parks Arrested Before

The driver of the bus 2857, for which Rosa Parks is famous for being arrested on, was driven by a James Blake, who’d had her arrested before for refusing to enter in the back of the bus. However, she didn’t notice that he was driving that day. In her 1992 biography, she states if she’d seen Blake was driving, she wouldn’t have gotten on. However, when she was asked to move from her seat, she made a split-second decision to refuse, not because her feet were tired, but because she was tired of the inequality. And the rest is history.

4. Rosa Parks Was Sitting in Colored Section

Rosa Parks didn’t sit in the white-only section of the bus. She was sitting in the first four rows of the colored section of the bus. But, when the white-only section was filled, the Black passengers in the first four rows were told to give up seats in their section for the white male passenger. She refused to move, and the bus driver called the police.

5. Not the First Woman to Refuse

Though Rosa Parks is most famous for not giving up her seat and sparking a revolution, she wasn’t the first Black person or woman to refuse to give up her seat. Earlier that year, a woman named Claudette Colvin refused to move from her seat after learning about activists during black history in her school. A high schooler at the time, Colvin claimed it was her constitutional right to remain in the seat before being arrested.

6. Finished High School

In Rosa Park’s time, it was rare to finish high school. However, Rosa Parks was one of the few Black Americans of the time to get her high school diploma in 1934. Her decision to finish high school was supported by her husband, Raymond Parks, who was also a self-educated person and a civil rights activist.

7. National Recognition for Civil Rights Activities

Not only is Rosa Parks considered “the mother of the civil rights movement,” but she received national recognition for her fight in the struggle against racial inequality. Some of her achievements include:

  • Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1999
  • NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1979
  • First women to lie in honor at Capitol Rotunda
  • Rosa Parks Freedom Award sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

8. Rosa Parks Fired

Rosa Parks' civil rights activism hurt her husband and her life. Not only did they receive death threats and lose their jobs, but they were forced to move around to find work. She worked as a seamstress and in various other jobs.

9. Government Secretary

After moving to Detroit, she worked as a secretary for U.S. Representative John Conyers from 1964 to her retirement in 1988. She worked with the secretary to further civil rights and other matters for Americans. She was even active in working to end apartheid in Africa.

10. Started an Institute

Rosa Parks started a foundation in collaboration with Elaine Steele to honor her husband, Raymond Parks. The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development became a reality in 1987. This organization promotes the career development, job opportunities and development of youth and seniors through multiple programs.

Rosa Parks Facts: Sparking a Revolution

Though Rosa Parks wasn’t the first, she was the woman the NAACP needed to spark a revolution. The boycotters, including leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., propelled the civil rights movement into the spotlight. Learn more about civil rights through what are civil rights and what Martin Luther King Jr. did for civil rights.

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