Rosa Parks

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Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks (born Feb. 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama - died October 24, 2005) is nationally recognized as the "mother of the modern day civil rights movement" in America.

Early Life and Education

Parks was the first child of James and Leona Edwards McCauley. Her brother, Sylvester McCauley, now deceased, was born August 20, 1915. Later, the family moved to Pine Level, Alabama where Rosa was reared and educated in the rural school. When she completed her education in Pine Level at age eleven, her mother, Leona, enrolled her in Montgomery Industrial School for Girls (Miss White's School for Girls), a private institution. After finishing Miss White's School, she went on to Alabama State Teacher's College High School. She, however, was unable to graduate with her class, because of the illness of her grandmother Rose Edwards and later her death.

As Rosa Parks prepared to return to Alabama State Teacher's College, her mother also became ill, therefore, she continued to take care of their home and care for her mother while her brother, Sylvester, worked outside of the home. She received her high school diploma in 1934, after her marriage to Raymond Parks, December 18, 1932. Raymond, now deceased was born in Wedowee, Alabama, Randolph County, February 12, 1903, received little formal education due to racial segregation. He was a self-educated person with the assistance of his mother, Geri Parks. His immaculate dress and his thorough knowledge of domestic affairs and current events made most think he was college educated. He supported and encouraged Rosa's desire to complete her formal education.[1]

Early activism

Alabama was considered one of the most violent and racist states in the South. Parks and her husband Raymond Parks, whom she married in 1932, participated in the campaign to free the “Scottsboro Boys,” a group of African-American youth falsely accused of raping two white women on a freight train in 1931. The case gained national attention and drew support from both the Communist Party USA and the NAACP.

Parks, later moved to Montgomery where she worked as a seamstress, was elected secretary of the Montgomery Chapter of the NAACP in 1943. She worked alongside E. D. Nixon, a labor organizer and advocate for workers who was a longtime member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, founded by A. Philip Randolph.

In 1944, Parks helped investigate the gang rape of Recy Taylor, an ­African-American ­woman, and helped form the Committee for Equal Justice for Recy Taylor. The Chicago Defender described the campaign as the most significant effort against racism of the decade.

Taylor had been walking home from church in Abbeville, Ala., when she was kidnapped by six white men, taken to a deserted area and repeatedly assaulted. Although the car and the assailants were identified, no charges were ever filed against the men for their crimes.[2]


As at 1949, Parks served as an advisor to the Youth Council of the Montgomery Branch National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.[1]

Highlander Folk School

Martin Luther King, Pete Seeger, Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, and Charis Horton at Highlander, 1957
Rosa Parks at Highlander's 50th anniversary celebration

Parks attended the Communist-affiliated Highlander Folk School. Following her death in 2005, the school spoke about her life and her association with them:[3]

"Highlander is honored by our connection to Mrs. Parks. In July 1955 she came to the original Highlander Folk School located in Monteagle, Tennessee, for a workshop on school desegregation, one of many workshops that Highlander held for civil rights freedom fighters during that time."

Rosa Parks said that the first time she met a white person who treated her with respect was at the Highlander School in Tennessee where she attended a workshop on labor rights and met the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and communist balladeer Pete Seeger. [4]

Working for John Conyers

Congressman John Conyers, First Congressional District of Michigan employed Rosa Parks, from 1965 to 1988.[1]

An orchestrated incident

According to activist Stoney Cooks;

The biggest miscarriage of justice to sister Rosa Parks was the belief that she was just tired and didn't want to move out of her seat.

Rosa Parks was not simply tired. She was a community activist who had earlier spent time with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, a meeting place where activists frequently gathered to share strategies for nonviolent protest . Ms. Parks made a conscious decision not to give up her seat because of racial injustice.[5]

Affiliations with the CPUSA

Relationship with Senior CPUSA Member

New York based James Jackson worked as the Southern Affairs secretary for the Communist Party USA. At this time he worked in close association with Rosa Parks, a relationship which had begun in the days of the Youth Congress and continued during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. As The Worker’s editor, Jackson worked with a number of the leaders of the civil rights revolution.[6]

"Parks was a member"

On Oct. 25, 2005, an anonymous commenter commented on an obituary for Rosa Parks on the Daily Kos blog. They stated:[7]

"Rosa Parks was a member of CPUSA... I work for the PWW, the newspaper for the CPUSA, though I am not a member. I heard it from a national chair member that I work with. She may not have released that information widely, therefore it's not the policy of the party to "out" her, nevertheless, it is true... Anyway, it was pretty common amongst activists of that time. She may not have made it publicly known, though."

Training at CPUSA-run Highlander School

Parks trained at the Communist Party USA-run Highlander Folk School in Tennessee.

McAdory precedent

In 1941, Mildred McAdory, a domestic worker and Southern Negro Youth Council activist, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Birmingham, Ala., and was arrested. That was 14 years before Rosa Parks did just that in Montgomery. Mildred was arrested and SNYC led a big struggle on her behalf. Mildred, or Millie as many knew her, had to leave the South and came to Harlem where she became a member of the Communist Party USA's National Committee.

Parks, the heroine of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the civil rights movement, later credited the role of both the NAACP and SNYC for leading the way to breaking segregation.[8]

Working for CPUSA-linked Congressman

Rosa Parks spent from 1965 to 1988 working for CPUSA-linked Michigan congressman, John Conyers. Conyers was a very close associate of Detroit mayor and covert CPUSA member, Coleman Young.

Did Rosa Parks Act Alone?

Rosa Parks has acknowledged that she did not act alone:[9]

Four decades later I am still uncomfortable with the credit given to me for starting the bus boycott. I would like [people] to know I was not the only person involved. I was just one of many who fought for freedom… As I look back on those days, it’s just like a dream. The only thing that bothered me was that we waited so long to make this protest and to let it be known wherever we go that all of us should be free and equal and have all opportunities that others should have.