Rosa Parks Questions and Answers
by James Haskins

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How did Rosa Parks influence change?

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Rosa Parks played a major role in the civil rights movement but perhaps not in the exact way that students are often taught in school. A great deal of people, myself included, grew up thinking that Rosa Parks was just a random woman who got on a bus in 1955 and refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. While this is part of what happened, it isn't the entire story. Rosa Parks's action that day, December 1, 1955, was a result of not only other recent events but also Parks's lifelong attempt to garner equal rights for African Americans. She was active in the Montgomery NAACP, even serving as a secretary and getting heavily involved in investigations of other atrocities against African Americans more than a decade before her actions on the bus. Further, a number of other people had performed acts of civil disobedience in the past similar to that of Parks. But Parks became a civil rights icon because her act occurred at a specific time—just days after the acquittal of the brutal murderers of Emmett Till—and because the NAACP, of which Parks had been a member since 1943, strongly backed her during the court case. She was quiet, gainfully employed, married, and well-respected. She was an excellent example of what a person should be, and she spent much of her life helping to enact change.

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