On Dec. 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, she became a pivotal symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.
She was arrested by police and charged with disorderly conduct for defying local segregation laws.
The same day, the Montgomery Improvement Association was founded, which led the Montgomery Bus Boycott that catapulted the young Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to leadership.
Parks organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including Edgar Nixon, president of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Prior to her arrest, Parks had attended Highlander Folk School, which trained community organizers on issues of poverty and later civil rights. In the 1940s, she joined the NAACP and was elected secretary of its Montgomery, Ala., branch, working with civil rights activist Edgar Nixon to fight barriers to voting for Blacks and investigate sexual violence against women.
After the bus boycott, Parks and her husband lost their jobs and were threatened. They left for Detroit, where she was an activist against the war in Vietnam and worked on poverty, housing and racial justice issues.
In 1992, Parks published “Rosa Parks: My Story,” an autobiography that recounted her life leading to her decision to keep her seat on the bus. She also published her memoir, titled “Quiet Strength” in 1995, which focuses on her faith in her life.
Parks was honored previously in Washington, D.C. with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999, both during the Clinton administration.
She died on Oct. 24, 2005, at age 92. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor on Feb. 4, which would have been her 100th birthday.
In February, President Barack Obama unveiled a full-length statue of Rosa Parks in the Capitol, paying tribute for her work in the Civil Rights Movement. Parks became the first Black woman to be honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.