On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks sat down on a seat in the middle of a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and refused to move when the driver told her to give it up so that white passengers could sit there instead.
The iconic moment in the Civil Rights Movement happened 60 years ago today. A decade-long member and secretary of the local NAACP, Parks’ decision not to move was part of a calculated effort on the part of civil rights organizers in Montgomery to desegregate the bus system. She was jailed, fined, and went to court to fight the law demanding that black passengers should have to ride at the back of the bus. Together with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Parks and the local Montgomery Improvement Association waged a boycott of the bus system for more than a year. In 1956, the Supreme Court ruled as part of another case that the bus segregation in Montgomery was illegal, one of the many small victories that led the way to equal rights for black Americans.
Parks was called the “first lady of civil rights” for her role in ending segregation and became an icon of the American Civil Rights Movement. She died in 2005 at the age of 92, and her casket was transported to Washington, D.C., to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.