The above photograph was taken not following Rosa Parks’ famous December 1, 1955 arrest for refusing to vacate a bus seat, but rather following her February 1956 arrest during the Montgomery bus boycotts. At the time of this arrest, Parks was 43 years old. On this occasion, she was arrested with Martin Luther King Jr. and other protesters during the 381 day-long bus boycott that catapulted King to national prominence and the civil rights movement into popular consciousness. The bus boycott began as a direct consequence of Parks’ December 1st act of civil disobedience.
Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley, February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, and married Raymond Parks in 1932. She was just a 42 year-old seamstress at a Montgomery department store returning home from work when she sat down in the “colored” section of the bus on December 1st,, 1955. Moments later, when she refused to comply with the driver’s request that she vacate her seat, she became the mother of the civil rights movement. While Parks did not refuse the driver’s request in order to spark the bus boycott, her grassroots activism and education at the Highlander Folk Center, an educational center for workers’ rights and racial equality in Tennessee, had prepared her for the moment. As the Reverend Jesse Jackson said upon her death in 2005, “She sat down in order that we might stand up.”