The Life of Rosa Parks

Photo of Rosa Parks

Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama to James and Leona McCauley. At age two her family moved to Pine Level, Alabama, to live with her maternal grandparents. Her mother, a school teacher, taught Rosa at home until age eleven when she moved to Montgomery to live with her aunt. She enrolled in a private school, the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, where she cleaned classrooms to pay her tuition. Later she attended Booker T. Washington High School but was forced to leave to take care of her sick mother. In 1932, she married Raymond Parks, to whom she would remain married until his death in 1977. Though Raymond had very little formal education, he was self-taught and supported his wife's desire to return to school. She received her high school diploma in 1934.

Mrs. Parks worked as a seamstress at a Montgomery department store in 1955. On December 1st of that year she boarded a city bus and sat in a row at the front of the colored section. The whites only section in the front of the bus filled up and a white man was left standing. The bus driver demanded that Mrs. Parks and three other patrons in the colored section give up their seats so the white man could sit. The other three people moved but Mrs. Parks had been pushed around enough and refused to yield her seat. She was arrested when the bus driver contacted the police and filed charges against her. Four days later she was found guilty of disorderly conduct and the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.

Over a year later the city was served with papers declaring segregation of bus service unconstitutional. The next day Mrs. Parks boarded a bus and for the first time was allowed to sit in any unoccupied seat. Her ordeal however was not over. She had lost her seamstress job and was unable to find work. Her family was harassed and threatened. In 1957, she moved along with her mother and husband to Detroit where her younger brother Sylvester lived.

In 1965, she joined the staff of U.S. Representative John Conyers of Michigan and worked there until her retirement in 1988. Mrs. Parks traveled the country extensively, lecturing on civil rights. Through the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development, a non-profit organization she co-founded with Elaine Steele in 1987, she worked with young people to help them achieve their full potential. She has received honorary degrees from nearly a dozen colleges and universities and has received countless honors and awards. On April 22, 1998, she attended the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Troy University, Rosa Parks Library and Museum to be located on the spot she was arrested. On December 1, 2000, she once again came to Montgomery to participate in the grand opening of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum, dedicated in her honor. She and her family were the first to tour the new library and museum.

"Pathway of Honor"

Photo of Pathway of Honor in front of Rosa Parks Museum

The pathway leading to the entrance of the Rosa Parks Library and Museum complex will be named the "Pathway of Honor". Friends and supporters of Troy University, Montgomery Campus can permanently show support on part of the complex by purchasing an inscribed brick. Your brick will be displayed on the pathway that leads to the entrance of the library and museum. Please join us as we build a very special walkway to a very special museum dedicated to a lasting change through peaceful action. Your gift is 100% tax-deductible as no goods or services were received in connection with this donation.

The story of Rosa Parks is one of a community coming together to work towards a common goal. Be a part of the community by helping build the tribute to Mrs. Parks and the movement she inspired. Artifacts of all kind are needed for the museum. Please send a photograph, photocopy and/or description of artifacts for donation to the address below. While not all materials will be selected for inclusion into the museum, those that are will honor the donor by including their name with the artifact’s description in its display. Please do not send original materials at this time.

Contact Information:

Troy University
Montgomery Campus Rosa Parks Library and Museum
P.O. Drawer 4419
Montgomery, AL 36103-4419
Apply Now!