1955 - The Dream Begins
When Rosa Parks said her firm and profoundly significant 'No', it united the long-patient blacks of
Montgomery, Alabama, in an almost volcanic show of solidarity.
Parks, 42, had refused a bus driver's order to give up her seat to a white rider. Throughout the South
such degrading discrimination was common practice and, indeed, the law. When Parks hung tough, she was
arrested and charged with violation of city ordinance. Her simple act, though not the first of its kind,
united the 45,000 blacks of Montgomery (population 120,000) in a successful massive resistance that
finally caught the attention of the whole country. With the help of ministers and other prominent black
citizens, the local members of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP)
organized a boycott of the city buses that lasted more than a year. lt ended only after the United States
Supreme Court affirrned a lower court ruling that segregation on the buses was illegal.
Until that victory, Montgomery blacks walked to work or rode in carefully scheduled taxi and car pools.
Leadership of the boycott was soon given to Martin Luther King Jr., a new 26-year-old minister in town
whose preaching of nonviolence in the face of white threats, bombings, and jailings made his people
again and again so determined and enthusiastic that one reporter said:
'They were on fire for freedom'.
From: The Generation of Change - The Civil Rights Movement in America, USIA 1989, p.1 (slightly simplified).
volcanic - sudden and violent
to hang tough (AE) - to remain brave and determined in a difficult situation
ordinance (AE) - a law of a city or town that forbids sth.
to affirm - to state that sth. is true
to schedule - to plan, to organise
Rosa Parks finally takes a seat in the front of the bus after the Supreme Court rulled bus segregation illegal.
1 . Read aloud lines 1 to 11.
2. Describe the photo and summarize the events in Montgomery, Alabama, as outlined in the text.
3. Imagine that after some moments of embarrassing silence Rosa Parks and the white man sitting behind
her start a conversation.
White man: 'How does it feel to sit in the front of the bus? Did you finally get what you wanted?'
Now it is your turn! Give Rosa Parks' answer; say how you feel; you should also talk about what has been
achieved and about what still remains to be done!
(Your teacher will interrupt you, taking the white man's role.)
More on Mrs. Rosa Parks
If you want to buy the little book Dear Mrs. Parks - A Dialogue with Today's Youth second hand
in very good condition - (Lee&Low Books, paperback),
send me an eMail
The price of it is € 6 incl. postage.
DVD on the story of Mrs Rosa Parks: