On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. Due to her planned act of civil disobedience, Parks was jailed and fined, but that was by no means the end of her activism. Parks continued to fight against segregation, most notably through the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began that very same day. The seven Rosa Parks quotes that follow exemplify her tenacity and constant compulsion for justice; Parks' fearlessness remained one of her most distinctive traits until her passing in 2005 at 92 years old.
Along with the NAACP and Dr. Martin Luther King, Parks helped ensure that the 381-day boycott was successful and that black voices were heard. Her activism was arduous but her diligence allowed for a galvanization of the civil rights movement; The Montgomery Bus Boycott led to the eventual legal desegregation of city buses.
Parks' quotes still echo in today's ears. Her message of resisting complacency, even against the pressure of a powerful oppressor, is paramount as our nation continues to struggle with civil rights issues of its own, as has been recently embodied in the protests at Standing Rock, political threats to the rights of Muslims, and the still-massive number of incidents of racial injustice against black Americans. Parks is a figure of freedom who continues to inspire today.
"Knowing what must be done does away with fear."
By refusing to give up her seat, Parks rejected "fear" entirely. Parks remained committed to her cause by thoroughly committing to civil disobedience, knowing that what she was fighting for was more important than any possible punishment.
"People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. ... No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."
Though it's been widely circulated that Parks' refusal to give up her seat was made on a whim, it was actually quite planned. Another myth is that Parks remained seated because she was "tired." Her intentions were much stronger statements than either of these assumptions make them out to be.
"Differences of race, nationality, or religion should not be used to deny any human being citizenship rights or privileges."
A civil rights activist on all levels, Parks preached equality through and through. She believed that no matter a person's circumstance, they deserve the "citizenship rights [and] privileges" granted to all Americans.
"The advice I would give any young person is, first of all, to rid themselves of prejudice against other people and to be concerned about what they can do to help others."
An activist committed to bettering others' lives, Parks believed in selflessness. Her advice encourages young people to get involved in activism as early as possible, noting that a suspension of prejudices is key to finding understanding.
"By standing up to something, we still don’t always effect change right away. Even when we are brave and have courage, change still doesn’t come about for a long time."
Parks' patience for change was exemplified in her dutiful participation in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Change, especially large scale change, doesn't happen overnight, and circumstances that are out of one's control can impede intentions. Still, Parks never tired, remaining brave and courageous no matter what.
"I’d like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free and wanted other people to be also free."
This distillation of Park's message highlights her main value, freedom, which remains her legacy.
"I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope and looking forward to a better day, but I don’t think there is any such thing as complete happiness."
Parks was a realist; As much as she believed in her own cause, she knew that there would be obstructions along the way. She dedicated her life to fighting segregation, for everyone's betterment, and stayed steadfast in that mission despite all that was stacked against her.