The biggest challenge that Rosa Parks faced was segregation. At that time in the South, all aspects of life were divided along strictly racial lines. As well as being denied their civil rights, African Americans were restricted to using facilities inferior to those enjoyed by white people. Restaurants, beaches, trains, even water fountains were subject to segregation, and it was highly dangerous for anyone to cross the color line imposed by the Jim Crow laws.
In Montgomery, Alabama,—Rosa Parks's hometown—buses were segregated as they were right across the South. White people sat near the front; black people near the back. The symbolism was clear: society considered white people superior to African Americans. Black folks could sit in the middle section of the bus but were forced to give up their seats if any white person needed them.
Rosa Parks had been actively involved in the civil rights movement for years before her famous act of defiance. Yet it wasn't until 1955 that she opted to break the law, in order to expose its inherent injustice. One evening, on her way home from work, Rosa sat in the middle row of seats. As the bus filled up with white passengers, the driver requested the black passengers to move to the back of the bus. However, Rosa refused, and she was arrested.
Brought before the court on a trumped-up charge of public disorder, Rosa Parks was punished with a fine. But as the Montgomery Bus Boycott got under way, she faced additional challenges in her life. Due to her "criminal record" and her high profile as a civil rights campaigner, Rosa lost her job and struggled financially. Things got so bad that she was eventually forced to move out of Alabama altogether. So, although Rosa had achieved a moral victory in standing up to racism and segregation, she was effectively hounded out of state by the very same forces she'd so bravely defied.