Document Type


Publication Date



Rosa Parks died on October 24; her funeral was today. No doubt, there will be a flurry of well-deserved posthumous tributes and honors bestowed upon her. And no doubt, some will feel shame over the manner in which her sacrifices were depicted in later years - for instance, by the group OutKast. (Parks sued the group's record company, in Rosa Parks v. Laface Records, over the unauthorized use of her name in a song title). The story of Mrs. Parks's key role in the "modern-day" civil rights movement has been told and will be retold innumerable times. She has already been referred to, for many years, as the "mother" of the movement. We know well how, on December 1, 1955, in a brave act of civil disobedience, she violated the invidious Alabama Code ch. 1 § 8, which forbade all "colored" people from sitting in the front of the bus. And we know well, too, how her act served as the catalyst for a bus boycott, for the movement itself, and for the subsequent rise of a young minister named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But by casting Rosa Parks in the role of the "mother" of the civil rights movement, historians place a limit on her real role in shaping America into what it is today, both nationally and internationally. No wonder, then, that, as the Associated Press reported, at a memorial service for Mrs. Parks in Alabama, Condoleezza Rice commented, "I can honestly say that without Mrs. Parks, I probably would not be standing here today as Secretary of State." The larger story is that of how Rosa Parks's simple act of refusing to give up her seat in the "colored" section of the bus to a white man changed the world.