28 January 2014
How Rosa Parks Initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913, to Leona Edwards, a teacher, and James McCauley, a carpenter. When her parents separated, she moved with her mother to Pine Level, just outside the capital of Montgomery. She grew up on a farm with her maternal grandparents, mother, and younger brother Sylvester. They all were members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), a century-old independent black denomination founded by free blacks in Philadelphia in the early nineteenth century.
McCauley attended rural schools until the age of eleven. A student at the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery, she took academic and vocational courses. Parks went on to a laboratory school set up by the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes for secondary education, but dropped out in order to care for her grandmother and later her mother, after they became ill.
Around the start of the 20th century, the former Confederate states had passed new constitutions and electoral laws that effectively disfranchised black voters and, in Alabama, many poor white voters as well. Under the white-established Jim Crow laws, passed after Democrats regained control of southern legislatures, racial segregation was imposed in public facilities and retail stores in the South, including public transportation. Bus and train companies enforced seating policies with separate sections for blacks and whites. School bus transportation was unavailable in any form for black schoolchildren in the South, and black education was always underfunded. Parks recalled going to elementary school in Pine Level, where school buses took white students to their new school and black students had to walk to theirs: "I'd see the bus pass every day... But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the...