Dear Mrs. Parks,
The sixth graders are doing a history project. We chose you. The theme is "Taking a stand in history."
We have some questions. Can you answer them? How did you feel when you were on the bus? Have you had
any experiences with the Ku Klux Klan?
Your theme is a good one. A person should not take a stand to make history. Taking a stand for what is
right is most important. You may take a stand to make history, and it can be the wrong one. So many people
did this during the Civil Rights movement, and many are still doing it today.
The custom of getting on the bus for black people in Montgomery in the 1950s was to pay at the front
door, get off the bus, and then reenter through the back door to find a seat. Black people could not
sit in the same rows with white people. This custom was humiliating and intolerable.
When I sat down on the bus on the day I was arrested, I decided I must do what was right to do. People
have said over the years that the reason I did not
give up my seat was because I was tired. I did not think of being physically tired. My feet were not
hurting. I was tired in a different way. I was tired of seeing so many men treated as boys and not
called by their proper names or titles. I was tired of seeing children and women mistreated and
disrespected because of the color of their skin. I was tired of Jim Crow laws, of legally enforced
I thought of the pain and the years of oppression and mistreatment that my people had suffered. I felt
that way every day. December 1, 1955, was no different. Fear was the last thing I thought of that day.
I put my trust in the Lord for guidance and help to endure whatever I had to face. I knew I was sitting
in the right seat.
I did experience the Ku Klux Klan when I was young. I remember being about six years old and hearing
about how the KKK terrorized African Americans by burning down their churches and beating up or even
killing people. My family talked about wearing our clothes to bed so we would be ready to escape our
house if we had to.
My grandfather never seemed afraid. He was a proud man who believed in protecting his home. When the
hate crimes escalated, he sat up many nights with his shotgun. He sald if the KKK broke into our house,
he was going to get the first one who came through the door. The Klansmen never did try to break into our
house, but their violence continued. After these experiences, I learned that I must not be afraid and
must always trust in God.
I hope you and your classmates never experience hateful violence. By learning about the past, you are
already helping a great deal toward making the future better for people of all races.
Source: Dear Mrs. Parks - A Dialogue with Today's Youth, Lee&Low Books, New York 1996, pp. 40-42
Ku Klux Klan - Ku Klux Klan (KKK) is the name of organizations in the United States
that have advocated white supremacy, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, homophobia (Ausländerfeindlichkeit), anti-Communism
and nativism. These organizations have used terrorism, violence, and acts of intimidation (Einschüchterung), such as cross
burning and lynching, to oppress African Americans and other social or ethnic groups.
Jim Crow laws - The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and border states
of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965. They mandated "separate but equal" status for
black Americans. In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were almost always inferior
to those provided to white Americans. The most important laws required that public schools, public places
and public transportation, like trains and buses, have separate facilities for whites and blacks.
1. Describe in your own words the way how blacks and whites were treated in buses before 1955.
2. From what you have learned about segregation between blacks and whites before 1955, what were the main
differences in their daily lives?
3. How would you feel, if you had lived as a black in the southern states of the USA before the civil right movement?
4. Name one more famous figure (besides Rosa Parks) connected with the civil rights movement and describe his/her life and
5. What do you know about the Ku Klux Klan?