CORRECTED: US pays homage to civil rights icon Rosa Parks
Please read in 8th paragraph … give up her seat to a
white man … instead of … give up her seat to James Blake, a
A corrected repetition follows.
By Tom Brown
DETROIT (Reuters) – Tributes poured in on Tuesday honoring
Rosa Parks, the black woman whose refusal to give a white man
her seat on an Alabama bus 50 years ago sparked a protest that
helped break racial segregation in America.
Parks, who died at 92, “transformed America for the
better,” with her act of defiance, said President George W.
Bush. Sen. Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat and sole black in
the U.S. Senate, called her a genuine American hero.
Friends and family said Parks died of natural causes at her
Detroit home on Monday evening after a visit by her physician
and Elaine Steele, a longtime companion.
“It happened very quickly, very quickly,” Anita Peek, a
director, together with Steele, of the Rosa and Raymond Parks
Institute for Self-Development, told Reuters.
The Detroit-based youth education center was founded by
Parks and Steele in 1987.
“They’d just finished talking,” Peek said. “They turned
around and went back to say good night and she was gone.”
Parks was a 42-year-old seamstress for a Montgomery
department store when she caught a bus in downtown Montgomery
on December 1, 1955.
Her refusal to bow to the rules and give up her seat to a
white man who boarded the bus three stops after her, led to her
arrest. But it also sparked a boycott of the Montgomery bus
system by black residents led by a then-unknown Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr.
The boycott lasted 381 days, and legal challenges led to a
U.S. Supreme Court decision that forced Montgomery to
desegregate its bus system and put an end to “Jim Crow” laws
separating blacks and whites at public facilities throughout
GRIEF AND GRATITUDE
The tributes on Tuesday were tinged with grief as well as
gratitude. By remaining seated on the racially segregated bus
that day, many said, she let future generations of Americans
stand up in dignity.
“She was very humble, she was soft spoken. But inside she
had a determination that was quite fierce,” said U.S. Rep. John
Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and founding member of the
Congressional Black Caucus.
“She has saint-like qualities,” added Conyers, who Parks
worked for as a receptionist and aide from 1965 to 1988.
“Today, America mourns the loss of a woman who changed our
nation,” said U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Illinois
Republican who presented Parks with the Congressional Gold
Medal of Honor in 1999.
“Rosa Parks was a genuine American hero. Through her
courage and by her example, she helped lay the foundation for a
country that could begin to live up to its creed,” Obama said.
Dennis Archer, a former Democratic mayor of this
predominantly black city said, “In my own view Rosa Parks
deserves to, in effect, lie in state like any national leader
because she has had a national impact on all of us.”
Bush on Tuesday called Parks as “one of the most inspiring
women of the 20th century.”
“Rosa Parks’ example helped touch off the civil rights
movement and transformed America for the better,” Bush said.
“She will always have a special place in American history and
our nation thinks of Rosa Parks and her loved ones today.”
Parks “inspired a whole generation of people to fight for
freedom,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a news
conference in Ottawa. “I think for all of us her inspiration
will live on.”
On Tuesday a black and purple shroud was draped over the
bus believed to be the one on which Parks committed her
historic act. The vehicle is on display at the Henry Ford
Museum in Dearborn, Mich., beside a large picture of Parks.