1913 (4th February)
Rosa Parks was born Rosa Louise McCauley to James McCauley and Leona née Edwards at Tuskegee, Alabama. Her father was a stonemason and carpenter while her mother was a teacher. Her maternal grandmother was the daughter of a mixed-race slave.
Rosa’s parents separated and her father moved north looking for work. Rosa and her mother lived with her maternal grandparents on their farm in Pine Level, Alabama. The family were religious and attended the African Methodist Episcopal Church regularly.
1915 (20th August)
Rosa’s brother, Sylvester James McCauley, was born to James and Leona McCauley at Pine Level, Alabama.
Rosa began her education at the elementary school in Pine Level. She was also taught by her mother, a former rural school teacher.
Rosa’s father paid the family a visit. She would not see him again until after her marriage.
Rosa was threatened by a white boy in the street. She immediately picked up a brick and dared him to use violence.
The family moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa attended Miss White’s Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. The school was burned down twice by white supremacists. Rosa was also frequently subject to bullying by white children but she always stood up for herself.
Rosa attended Alabama State Teachers College but had to drop out to care for her sick grandmother and mother.
Rosa McCauley was working as a housekeeper when a white neighbour of the family tried to rape her.
Rosa met Raymond Parks, a barber working in Montgomery. Parks was also active in the Scottsboro Boys’ Defense. He proposed to her on their second date.
1931 (25th March)
Raymond Parks took food to the jail where nine black youths aged 12 – 19 years were falsely accused of raping two white women. Despite one of the victims later testifying she had made the story up eight of the boys were found guilty. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) became involved in the case but it took several retrials and appeals over 15 years before they were all released.
1932 (18th December)
Rosa McCauley married Raymond Parks at Pine Level, Alabama.
Rosa Parks returned to school and gained a high school diploma. However, despite her qualifications she struggled to find work and resorted to working a number of part-time jobs.
Rosa’s brother, Sylvester enlisted in the army.
Rosa Parks boarded a bus driven by James F Blake. After she sat down the driver told her to get off the bus and enter by the back door. When she got off the bus he closed the doors and drove off without her. She made a mental note to never use a bus driven by Blake again.
Parks joined the Montgomery NAACP and soon became the branch Secretary.
Mrs Recy Taylor
Rosa Parks was sent by the Montgomery NAACP to investigate the gang rape of Mrs Recy Taylor, a black mother, by six white men. Despite one of the men confessing the authorities refused to prosecute. She launched a letter-writing campaign to press the Governor to intervene.
1944 (after September)
Rosa Parks founded the Committee for Equal Justice to help black women who were subjected to interracial sexual abuse and rape.
Parks took a position at the Maxwell Air Force Base. Because the base was a federal organisation racial segregation was not allowed. Being able to freely mix with white people for the first time made a great impression on Rosa.
Rosa Parks became office manager for E D Nixon, President of the Montgomery NAACP.
Parks attended a leadership training program.
E D Nixon became State President of the Alabama NAACP. Rosa Parks continued to work as his secretary.
Parks restarted the Montgomery NAACP Youth Council.
1954 (17th May)
Chief Justice, Earl Warren, speaking on the case of Brown v Board of Education, stated that segregated schools were unequal and against the 14th Amendment
Rosa Parks attended an educational course for activism in workers’ rights and racial equality at the highlander Folk School in Monteagle Tennessee.
Fifteen year old black schoolgirl Claudette Colvin refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman and was arrested. Her case was not taken up by Montgomery black leaders due to the fact that she was an unmarried minor and pregnant.
Despite the court ruling in Brown v Board of Education that all state schools should move to integration, many schools defied the ruling.
1955 (26th August)
Martin Luther King
became a member of the executive committee of the Montgomery National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
1955 (28th August)
Teenager, Emmett Till aged 14 years, was brutally murdered by white supremacists for ‘offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store’. His mother insisted on a public funeral with an open casket to expose the brutality of his murderers and the extent of racism in the United States.
1955 (27th November)
Parks attended a meeting at Dexter Avenue Baptist church. Speaker T R M Howard told the audience that the two men accused of the murder of Emmett Till had been acquitted.
1955 (1st December)
Rosa Parks boarded a bus and sat in the first row of the ‘blacks’ section of the bus. She had not noticed that the bus driver was James Blake, the driver that had driven off without her in 1943. After a number of white people got on the bus the bus driver insisted that four black passengers including Parks should stand so that white passengers could sit down. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and Blake called the police. She was arrested and charged with violation of the Montgomery City Code.
1955 (2nd December)
E D Nixon, president of the Montgomery NAACP decided to use Parks’ arrest as a test case to challenge segregation on the buses. Martin Luther King was chosen to lead the boycott. Despite his reluctance to take up the challenge, King was persuaded to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It was agreed that all blacks would boycott the buses from Monday 5th December.
1955 (5th December)
After a mass meeting at Martin Luther King’s church it was decided that the boycott would go ahead. Black taxi drivers carried black passengers for the price of a bus ticket, others shared cars and many made their journeys on foot.
1955 (5th December)
Rosa Parks was found guilty of failing to obey the bus driver’s request and fined $14.
1955 (8th December)
Montgomery officials issued an order that any taxi drivers charging less than 45 cents wold be fined.
Rosa Parks had become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement. Her notoriety as an activist led to her losing her job in a department store. Her husband also lost his job. She also found herself and her own views at odds with those of Martin Luther King.
1956 (26th January)
King was arrested and put in jail for leading the continuing boycott of the city buses.
1956 (30th January)
Martin Luther King’s house was firebombed. Although his wife and daughter were at home at the time they were not hurt.
1956 (5th June)
The case of Browder v Gayle, which challenged the bus segregation laws, decided that bus segregation was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. The Montgomery city council immediately appealed the decision.
1956 (13th November)
The appeal against the decision in Browder v Gayle was held. The city lost and the original decision was upheld.
After being on the receiving end of numerous death threats and also being unable to find work Rosa and Raymond Parks moved to Hampton Virginia.
1957 (9th September)
President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act 1957 into law. The Act made it illegal for anyone to be prevented from voting. It was intended to outlaw the Jim Crow Laws that allowed state and local laws to impose discriminatory sanctions on black Americans but in practice it had little effect.
Rosa and Raymond Parks moved to Detroit, Michigan. Despite not being in the deep south, Parks was amazed to find that the situation for blacks in Chicago was not much different to those in the south. Parks was active in a number of different struggles for equality in Chicago.
There was an issue with a lack of housing in Detroit. Over the preceding years numerous buildings had been destroyed to build improved railways and roads. The problem was that 70% of those evicted from buildings targeted for destruction were black. This increased tension between blacks and whites in the city.
Rosa Parks helped Democrat John Conyers’ campaign to become a Congressman.
Parks became secretary and receptionist for John Conyers’ office. Part of her role was to speak to people in local communities and keep Conyers aware of local issues.
1963 (11th June)
President John F Kennedy
announced that segregation was legally and morally wrong and that he would be introducing new civil rights legislation.
1963 (23rd June)
King led more than 100,000 people on a Freedom Walk in Detroit.
1963 (28th August)
Around 250,000 people converged on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC at the end of the March on Washington. Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during the rally.
1963 (22nd November)
President John Kennedy was assassinated
by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas.
1964 (2nd July)
President Lyndon Baines Johnson
signed the Civil Rights Act into law. The law stated that discrimination by race, colour, nationality, religion or sex was illegal. King was present at the White House for the signing of the Act.
1965 (21st February)
Malcolm X was assassinated at a rally in New York City, New York by members of the Nation of Islam group.
1965 (25th March)
Martin Luther King led a march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. Federal troops had been mobilised to protect the marchers. At the end of the march King made a speech entitled ‘How Long, Not Long’ where he stated his belief that equality was on the horizon. Rosa Parks travelled to Selma to support the march.
1965 (6th August)
The Voting Rights Act made racial discrimination in voting illegal.
1966 (22nd January)
Martin Luther King moved into a tenement building in Chicago to draw attention to the poor living conditions of blacks in the city.
1967 (6th July)
It was reported that around 50% of blacks eligible had registered to vote.
1967 (23rd July)
Riots began in Detroit after police raided an unlicensed after-hours bar. The raid was the trigger for years of pent-up frustration at segregation and racial bias against the black community particularly by the police. Rioting continued for 6 days.
1968 (28th March)
Martin Luther King led a march in Memphis Tennessee in support of black sanitation workers. The level of violence against the marchers shocked King.
1968 (31st March)
Republic of New Africa
This black nationalist organisation was founded to support the vision and ideals of activist Malcolm X. Rosa Parks supported their ideals and often collaborated with the group.
1968 (3rd April)
King delivered his ‘I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech at Mason Temple in Memphis.
1968 (4th April)
At 6.01 pm Martin Luther King stood on the balcony outside room 306 of the Lorraine Motel. He was shot by James Earl Ray and fell to the ground. Despite emergency surgery he was pronounced dead at 7.05 pm.
1968 (after 4th April)
The assassination sparked a series of riots and demonstrations across the United States.
1968 (9th April)
King’s funeral was attended by more than 50,000 people.
The League of Revolutionary Black Workers was formed in Detroit, Michigan. The aim of the group was to secure equality for blacks. Parks did not join the group but frequently collaborated with them.
Parks continued to work for equality and helped with the foundation of a number of committees and groups dedicated to dealing with inequality.
Both Rosa and Raymond Parks suffered ill health and needed hospital treatment. Although Parks was a famous woman and much in demand to speak publicly, the couple were not well off and ran into financial difficulties.
1977 (19th August)
Raymond Parks died of throat cancer.
1977 (27th November)
Rosa’s brother, Sylvester died of cancer.
Rosa moved in with her mother who was dying from cancer and dementia.
1979 (12th December)
Leona McCauley, Rosa’s mother died in Detroit.
Having spent the previous decade away from civil rights, Parks once again became involved in the movement.
The Rosa L Parks Scholarship Foundation was set up.
The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development was set up.
Parks’ autobiography ‘Rosa Parks: My Story’ was published.
1994 (30th August)
Rosa Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home.
Parks no longer felt safe in her home and moved to Riverfront Towers, a secure block of flats.
Parks published her memoirs entitled ‘Quiet Strength’.
2005 (24th October)
Rosa Parks died at home of old age.