Tag Archives: civil rights

Rosa Parks Arrested

Parks on a Montgomery bus after laws segregating buses were repealed.

Parks on a Montgomery bus after laws segregating buses were repealed.

On December 1, 1955, African-American woman Rosa Parks was arrested for her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white passenger.

In 1900, Montgomery, Alabama passed a city ordinance which segregated bus seating by race. The original ordinance stated that no one would ever be required to move or stand, but bus officials in Montgomery soon started the practice of making African Americans move when all the seats meant for whites were filled. Even though 75% of bus riders were black, they were required to sit at the rear of the bus, stand, or leave the bus if there were not enough seats provided for whites.

Parks first encountered bus driver James F. Blake in 1943 when she was asked to follow rules and enter the bus through the back door after she had already paid her bus fare. After Parks exited the bus, Blake drove away before she could get back on, leaving her to walk home in the rain.

Rosa Parks boarded a Montgomery bus after working all day on December 1, 1955. After paying her fare, she took a seat in the first row labeled, “Colored.” The busdriver (who was once again James F. Blake) noticed that some whites were standing and moved the sign back and demanded the blacks seated now in front of the sign, including Parks, move to make room for the white passengers. The three other black passengers seated in these seats complied with Blake’s demands, but Parks refused and was subsequently arrested.

After spending a day in jail, Parks was bailed out by a friend and the president of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, Edgar Nixon. Nixon saw Parks’ case as an opportunity to fight back against the segregation and unfair treatment of African Americans who use the Montgomery public transportation system. Just three days later on December 4, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was announced with the Women’s Political Council being the first group to officially endorse the boycott.

While Parks was being tried for disorderly conduct the next day, members of the WPC distributed 35,000 leaflets asking African Americans of Montgomery to boycott riding the bus. Some commuters carpooled or took black-operated cabs, while the rest of the commuters walked – some walking up to 20 miles to get to work. The day proved to be a successful first day of boycotting, and the Montgomery Improvement Association was formed afterward, electing a young Martin Luther King, Jr. as their president.

African American leaders of the city decided that Parks would be the perfect plaintiff to fight fight Alabama segregation laws because she had a stable income, husband, and was savvy in political matters. The black community of Montgomery continued their boycott for 381 while Parks’ case was slowed down in appeals through the Alabama court system. The U.S. Supreme Court case Browder v. Gayle finally ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional and the city was forced to repeal its former segregation law.

Parks became an important figure in the African American Civil Rights Movement and brought international attention to the plight of African Americans in the United States at this time. She is remembered and celebrated to this day with both the day of her arrest and her birthday officially becoming known as “Rosa Parks Day” in the U.S. states of  California and Ohio.

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Jackie Robinson Day

April 15 is Jackie Robinson Day!

Jackie Robinson Day celebrates the day that Jackie Robinson, the first African American Major League Baseball player, made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers (today, the Los Angeles Dodgers) on April 15, 1947.

Jackie Robinson was responsible for breaking the color barrier within the Major League Baseball organization. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962 for his outstanding contributions to the sport. His number, 42, was retired in 1997 and is the only number retired league-wide.

The first Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated on April 15, 2004 and the 2013 commemoration will mark the 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s MLB debut. Each year on April 15, every player, coach, and manager in Major League Baseball wears the number 42. 42, a feature film in memorial of Jackie Robinson’s courageous journey into Major League Baseball, was released in theaters on April 12, 2013 starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford.

Jackie Robinson Day

Sources: Wikipedia, MLB

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Malcolm X Assassinated

The assassination of African American Muslim minister and civil rights activist Malcolm X took place on February 21, 1965.

Malcolm X was born as Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska on May 19, 1925. His family suffered severe harassment from white supremacist groups who were threatened by his father Earl’s civil rights activism. Constant threats from groups like the Ku Klux Klan caused the Little family to move to East Lansing, Michigan.

Shortly after moving to Michigan, Malcolm’s father was killed. It is speculated that he was murdered by white supremacists, but no investigation was ever opened. Unable to deal with her husband’s death, Malcolm’s mother was committed to a mental institution while her eight children spread out over several orphanages and foster homes.

Even though he excelled in school, Malcolm dropped out at the age of 15 after a teacher told him that there was no point in pursuing his education because of his race. He moved toBoston,Massachusettsto live with his sister and turned to a life of crime. Malcolm was sent to prison in 1946 to serve a 10-year sentence for larceny.

While incarcerated, Malcolm read the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and converted to the Nation of Islam. He decided to drop his last name “Little” and adopted the surname “X” as homage to his unknown black ancestors. Upon his release, Malcolm’s charismatic nature and commanding presence led him to become the spokesperson for the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad’s right hand man.

The teachings of the Nation of Islam differed from the civil rights movement in that it emphasized complete separation of the races and change through violence rather than peaceful integration. In 1964, Malcolm became disenchanted with the Nation of Islam and decided to convert to Sunni Islam after making the Muslim pilgrimage toMecca.

After his trip, Malcolm was more positive about the civil rights movement than ever and sought to collaborate with other civil rights leaders for constructive change. On February 21, 1965 he was supposed to give a speech at the Audubon Ballroom inManhattanbut was shot several times at point blank range. At the age of 39, he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Malcolm X will always be remembered as one of the most influential African Americans in history, and a charismatic civil rights figure that was taken too soon.

Sources: Biography, Wikipedia

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Thurgood Marshall Voted to Supreme Court

…the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.” (Wikipedia)

These words were spoken by President Lyndon Johnson in June 1967 when he nominated Thurgood Marshall for Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. On August 30 of the same year, Marshall was not only voted to Supreme Court but became the first African American member of the Court. Marshall served on the Court for 24 years, making significant contributions to civil rights, criminal procedure, and other areas of law.

But Marshall’s career in law and impact on civil rights and social justice began long before 1967. Marshall began working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1936 and was appointed as the civil rights group’s Chief Counsel in 1940, after winning his first Supreme Court case – the first of 29 out of 32.

Marshall’s most famous Supreme Court case was the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, in which the Court declared laws that established “separate but equal” public education as unconstitutional because, as Marshall argued to the Court, the schools would never be equal as long as they remained separate.

Marshall was also the first Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, as appointed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the first African American United States Solicitor General, as appointed by President Johnson in 1965.

Sources: Wikipedia, America’s Story from America’s Library

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