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Rosa Parks - Success and InfluenceRosa Parks - Success and Influence


Rosa Parks (1913-2005)


American civil rights activist (pictured right) .

On December 1, 1955, she refused to give up her seat to whites on a bus in Birmingham, Alabama, as blacks then had to do under the segregation laws.

This sparked off the bus boycott by African Americans, led by Martin Luther King (pictured right together below).

 Rosa Parks - Success and Influence

For more detail see... 

The March on Washington in the History Highlights section.


Why was she successful and influential?

1. Courage

Parks was:

  • hugely courageous standing up to the evil of racism.
  • constantly threatened.
  • aware of what racist thugs could do (from the brutal murder of a black 14-year-old boy, Emmett Till , pictured right below, in August 1955).

She commented on her refusal to give up her seat on December 1, 1955:Rosa Parks - Success and Influence

“It was a matter of dignity”, she said adding that she wasn’t physically tired, just “tired of giving in”.


2. Sacrifice for her cause

After her refusal to give up her seat:

  • she lost her job at a department store.
  • her husband left his job after his boss stopped him talking about Rosa’s brave stand.

They left Birmingham and moved to Hampton, Virginia, where she became a seamstress.

 Rosa Parks - Success and Influence

3. “Quiet strength”

This description of herself sums up her character: a quiet person with:

  • a huge will to do what was right.
  • devout Christian beliefs.

She always loved her enemies, even at school, when whites:

  • called her ‘nigger’.
  • threw stones at her.

In 1943 she refused to board the bus driven by a racist bully, James F. Blake.

She avoided him and followed Jesus’s advice to ‘turn the other cheek’.

Then, inadvertently, she got on his bus on that famous day on December 1, 1955 in Birmingham, Alabama, when she refused to give up her seat (pictured right above is her prison photo after being arrested).

 Rosa Parks - Success and Influence

4. Purpose

She told the Pope John Paul II (pictured right) in 1999:

“My lifetime mission has been simple, that all men and women are created equal under the eyes of our Lord”.


5. Action


  • led by example.
  • showed that action is what matters, not words.

 Rosa Parks - Success and Influence

6. Support

She was strongly supported by her:

  • husband, Raymond (pictured right together).
  • closest friend  and employer, Virginia Durr, pictured right below (a white civil rights activist, who lent her books and encouraged her to learn more about the politics of race). Rosa Parks - Success and Influence


Key quote on fear and anxiety

Knowing what must be done does away with fear.


Key quote on influencing people

Each person must live their life as a model for others.

I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free...so other people also would be free.


Key quote on objectives and vision

My lifetime mission has been simple, that all men and women are created equal under the eyes of our Lord.


Key quote on ethics and integrity

It was a matter of dignity.

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