The legend of Sister Rosas act of courage and dignity is often described simply as moment of defiance in a one-day out of the blue incident. In truth it was an act of preparation. Rosa Parks worked hard at her political consciousness. She registered people to vote, took the stairs at work, rather than ride the Negro Only elevators, and resisted entering the back door of buses as far back as 1943.
“I did not get on the bus to get arrested,” she later said. “I got on the bus to go home.” (…) “When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”
Starting with Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, there is a long tradition of African American Women using transportation to obtain justice and freedom. Sojourner Truth and Mary Ellen Pleasant confronting discrimination on city streetcars; Ida B. Wells on trains in Tennessee; Irene Morgan’s challenge to segregation in interstate bus travel, and the legendary Rosa Parks and the 1955 Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott.
Well before Parks arrest, The Women’s Political Council and Joanne Robinson, was prepared to transform a singular act of defiance into a citywide bus boycott. Flyers had already been printed saying, “…don’t ride the bus to work, to town, to school, or anyplaceâ€¦ Another Negro woman has been arrested and put in jail because she refused to give up her seat”. A network of students was already in place for the distribution of the flyers and according to one source, within hours of hearing of Rosa Parks’s arrest, thousands of these flyers covered the city of Montgomery.
Sister Rosa had to sit down in order for Martin Luther King to stand up and galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. Thank you Ms. Rosa, you are the spark that started our freedom movement. Thank you sister Rosa Parks.
Contributed by chorus member Angela Lockhart.