Rosa Parks is one of the most enduring symbols of the American civil rights era of the mid-twentieth century. She was active in the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, serving as its field secretary and teaching young people about their rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens. Although she was not the first young black woman in Montgomery to be arrested for doing so, her 1955 arrest for violating the segregation ordinance by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man triggered a 382-day boycott of Montgomery’s buses by the city’s black population and prompted a challenge of the ordinance’s constitutionality in federal court. In December 1956, after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed a district court ruling against segregation, Parks took a symbolic victory ride near the front of a city bus. The successful boycott served as an inspiration to black communities throughout the nation with segregated city buses. Parks continued to work for civil rights causes throughout her life and was awarded the nation’s highest honors for her role in the movement.

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Encyclopedia of Alabama