Rosa Parks, when she was growing up, probably never imagined the impact she would have on her country.
And it’s safe to assume that she would not have expected the honor she received Monday on the 100th anniversary of her birth.
On Monday, the U.S. Postal Service released its newest Forever stamp honoring the Civil Rights icon whose refusal to be treated as a second-class citizen on Dec. 1, 1955 became an inspiration in the fight for freedom and racial equality.
Though 57 years have passed, her story of bravery and determination is one that is familiar to everyone. Parks, on that December day, was riding on a bus in Montgomery, Ala. The section of the bus reserved for white people had been filled, and the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat in the section for black people to a white male who had boarded the bus. She refused to move.
After she was charged with disorderly conduct and found guilty a few days later, her case was appealed. Meanwhile, African-American residents of Montgomery, after her conviction, began a 381-day strike against using buses in the city. The strike ended when Montgomery was forced to repeal its ordinances on public transportation segregation after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional.
A secretary for the local NAACP chapter, Parks lost her job as a seamstress. She later moved to Detroit and worked 23 years as a receptionist/secretary for a U.S. representative before retiring in 1988.
Few people, if any, remember or ever knew the names of the bus driver or the ungentlemanly male rider who would have taken a woman’s seat on the bus. Parks, however, has been revered and her stand has been commemorated on her birthday as the National Day of Courage. In 1987, she co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, an organization designed to encourage young Americans to behave in a socially responsible manner. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal and the NAACP’s Sprigam medal. After her death, a statue of her was placed in Statuary Hall of the nation’s Capitol and, when she died in 2005 at the age of 92, she was the first woman and only the second person who was not a U.S. government official to lie in state at the Capitol Rotunda.
“Rosa Parks was the epitome of courage. Her single act of defiance changed a nation. Today, her legacy lives on for generations as we bestow upon her one of America’s highest honors,” Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman said Monday. “Her quiet strength helped to change a nation.
“Let this stamp be a symbol of her courage and determination. And, let it remind us to never forget the indignities of days gone by — and to never stop fighting for the aspirations of generations yet unborn.”
A person never knows when a single act of courage can help change a nation.