Rosa Parks: Stories, Biography, & Things You Didn't Know About The Civil Rights Leader

Civil rights leader Rosa Parks smiles while people gathered around her applaud at a ceremony held in her honor. (Angel Franco/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

When she was arrested on December 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger, Rosa Parks became a symbol of the Civil Rights movement. We may remember Parks as a reserved 42-year-old seamstress who stood up for what she believed in by sitting down, but she had a long history of activism prior to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Rosa Parks's Early Life

Rosa Parks's mother, a schoolteacher, impressed upon her daughter the importance of education, but Parks was forced to leave school in the 11th grade to take care of her terminally ill grandmother. She intended to return to school after her grandmother died, but by that time, her mother had also taken ill. When she was 19 years old, Rosa met and married Raymond Parks, a barber 10 years her senior, and with his support, Parks finally earned her diploma.

He also introduced her to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Rosa joined the Montgomery chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. in 1943, began learning about the growing movement for racial equality and attending workshops on social justice, and by the time of her 1955 arrest, she had worked her way up to chapter secretary.