Happy Birthday to Civil Rights Activist, Icon Rosa Parks on this 4th Day of Black History Month (February).

Today would have marked Rosa Parks’ 104th birthday if she was still with us.  But although she no longer can be here physically, her memory and spirit will continue to live on.  An active member of her Montgomery, Alabama NAACP chapter since 1943, Ms. Parks’ fight for civil rights began long before her taking that front seat on the bus that day of December 1, 1955.  Marking her name into history books for a lifetime, we celebrate her on her birthday, and during this years Black History Month.

 

1. Criminal Justice Warrior

Parks’ early political career focused on issues of interracial sexual violence. She helped raise money for the defense of the “Scottsboro Boys,” nine Black teenagers falsely accused of raping two white women in 1931. All nine were later paroled, freed or posthumously pardoned after being wrongly convicted in a case that led to two landmark Supreme Court opinions over equality in the courtroom.

 

Parks in 1985. Photo by Guernsey

2. Women’s Advocate

Parks got involved in fighting for women’s rights when the NAACP sent her to investigate the attack of Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old mother who was abducted at gunpoint and raped by a group of white men in Alabama in 1944.

After educating herself on Taylor’s case and testimony, she and Montgomery’s most militant activists launched a campaign that the Chicago defender called the strongest movement for justice to be seen in a decade,” Prof. Danielle McGuire said in an interview with NPR.

Later, Parks went on to travel to remote parts of Alabama to hear other stories of Black women who were sexually assaulted by white men.  An effort to gain justice for these women, and bring awareness to the issue.

 

Rosa Parks in 1956. Guernsey’s

 

3. Youth Empowerment Champion

Parks opened Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in 1987 to continue her work with the youth; in a 1955 interview, she shared that the main organization program, “Pathways to Freedom” was meant to motivate young people; exposing them to civil rights landmarks & sites throughout the country.  As co-founder of the NAACP’s youth chapter, she helped teach African Americans how to read in order to pass the literacy test and be able to vote in upcoming elections.

Parks was even one of the NAACP members to help walk young African American kids into newly integrated schools following the Supreme Court ruling that “separate but equal” were unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

 

4. Planned Parenthood Supporter

Parks was a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood, even serving on the Board of Advocates for Planned Parenthood of America in the 1980s. Many pointed out the irony of this when several GOP lawmakers who had called to defund the organization listed Parks as the woman they would put on a $10 bill.

Sen. Marco Rubio said she was “an everyday American that changed the course of history,” while Sen. Ted Cruz called her “a principled pioneer that helped change this country.”

 

5. Civil Servant

After losing her job as a seamstress, Parks moved to Detroit with her husband and mother where she went on to work in the political arena as an aide in the Congressional office of U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). Parks worked for Conyers from 1964 until she retired in 1988.

 

Read more at NBC News.
Rosa Parks was truly a remarkable woman, responsible for more than just sitting on a bus.  Her movement began way before then, and was relentless until the end.

Along with a host of greats to carry the weight of all African Americans on their backs, we salute you Ms. Parks on your birthday.

#BlackHistoryMonth