53 years ago today, just 19 days before my mother gave birth to me, she would have sat quietly with bulging belly, and listened to a New York City station on the radio. (Mom loved to tune in New York City because of the great dance tunes). She would have heard the following item on the evening news report that night;
“A colored woman in Montgomery, Alabama was arrested by police today, after refusing to give up her seat to a white person. Mrs. Rosa Parks faces a fine for breaking the segregation law. It is not the first time that Mrs. Parks , a seamstress who works at the Montgomery Fair department store, has defied the law on segregation. In 1943 she was thrown off the bus for refusing to leave by the back door reserved for black passengers. She became known to drivers who then would refuse to let her on. Ironically, Mrs. Parks recognized James Burke today, as the same driver who threw her off the bus some 12 years ago. Mrs. Parks is a youth leader in a local branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Her husband, Raymond takes part in voter registration drives. The NAACP and Mrs. Parks have been involved in raising money to help defend 15 year old, Claudette Colvin, removed from a bus earlier this year for a similar segregation law-related refusal.”
Five days later, (just two weeks before I entered the world) mom would have heard another related news story on her radio, about the thousands of black citizens of Alabama participating in an organized boycott. A young man, named Martin Luther King spoke to the crowds that night and urged them to continue with the boycott. Almost all of Montgomery’s 40 thousand black residents did so for 381 days, crippling the city’s transportation system and signaling the start of the modern civil rights movement in the United States. On December 20th of 1956 (my 1st birthday), the Supreme court upheld a lower court decision to end segregation on Alabama busses. Mrs. Parks was fired from her job and then moved to Detroit in 1957 because of harassment. She worked for Democratic congressman, John Conyers until her retirement in 1985. Rosa Parks died in October of 2005.