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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Another Civil Rights She-ro Dies

"She just fell asleep and didn't wake up," said Shirley Kaigler, attorney for Rosa Parks, the black seamstress whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man sparked a revolution in American race relations, died on Monday. The U.S. civil rights pioneer was 92.

I suppose it is fitting the woman, who is known around the world as the "Mother of the Civil Right's Movement in the United States", should peacefully pass into the next life while napping at home during the early evening with a small group of friends and family nearby. The cause of death was not immediately known, but earlier this year as part of a legal battle with the hip-hop group OutKast over the use of Mrs. Parks' name in one of their songs, medical records released as evidence in the case indicated she was suffering from progressive dementia.

Here's what people who knew her have to say about Rosa Parks:
    Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: "She lived in the neighborhood that I grew up in. Everybody knew where her house was. Everybody would walk past and point her out. She was an amazing individual."
    Massachusetts Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy:"The nation lost a courageous woman and a true American hero. A half century ago, Rosa Parks stood up not only for herself, but for generations upon generations of Americans."
    Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson:"We rejoice in her legacy, which will never die. In many ways, history is marked as before, and after, Rosa Parks. She sat down in order that we all might stand up, and the walls of segregation came down."
    Michigan Democrat,U.S. Representative John Conyers, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and for whom Mrs. Parks worked as an aide from 1965 to 1988: "For a long time people were a little bit afraid of Rosa Parks because she had created this whole new modern civil rights movement. They didn't know what to expect, and they certainly didn't expect someone that quiet. She sought no limelight; you'd never hear her talking about her own civil rights activities and all the things that she had been in. She has saint-like qualities."

Though Mrs. Parks was not the first black Montgomery bus rider to be arrested for failing to give up a seat, she was the first to challenge the law.

Rosa Parks is the recipient of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's highest award - the Spingarn Medal. Mrs. Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1996, the highest U.S. civilian honor, and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor in 1999. Recommending the medal for Parks that year, the U.S. Senate described her as "a living icon for freedom in America."

Next Post: How to become an icon for freedom in America- the Rosa Parks way.