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The woman who refused to give up her bus seat..and changed the world; ROSA LEE PARKS,CIVIL RIGHTS HEROINE,DIES AT 92.

Byline: By Emily Nash

THE HUMBLE woman who changed America forever by refusing to give up her seat to a white man has died at the age of 92Rosa Lee Parks's act of defiance almost 50 years ago in the southern American state of Alabama prompted a black boycott of buses.

The protest helped trigger the formation of the modern US civil rights movement and led to racial discrimination being outlawed in America.

Mrs Parks, who had suffered from progressive dementia, died in her sleep on Monday night at her home in Detroit, Michigan.

Yesterday, world figures paid tribute to her achievements.

Former US president Bill Clinton described her as a woman of "great courage, grace and dignity".

He added: "Her refusal to be treated as a second-class citizen struck a blow to racial segregation. She was an inspiration to me and all who work for the day when we will be one America."

Civil rights activist the Reverend Jesse Jackson said: "Rosa Parks has shown the awesome power of right over might in history's long journey for peace and freedom."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "She showed how the peaceful actions of an ordinary seamstress could change for the better the lives of millions.

"She will remain an inspirational figure of great hope for many who continue to fight injustice around the world today." Rosa was 42 and already involved in civil rights groups with husband Raymond when she caught a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955.

After paying the 10 cent fare, she reboarded the bus at the back with other black passengers, taking a seat in the first row of the section reserved for "coloureds".

Three stops later, a white man boarded and had to stand.

To comply with the rules and make room for the white man to sit alone, driver James Blake told Mrs Parks and three other black passengers to move But she refused, saying: "I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen."

She later told police: "I didn't think I should have to. I paid my fare like everybody else."

Four days later, she was convicted and fined $14 as civil rights activists began a 381-day boycott of the buses.

It was organised by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Reverend Martin Luther King, who later earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his human rights work.

Her legal challenge over the conviction ended in a US Supreme Court decision to end laws separating blacks and whites in public places across the South.

Rosa moved to Detroit with Raymond in 1957 after losing her job and receiving death threats.

She worked as an aide to Michigan Democrat congressman John Conyer and, after retiring, founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, promoting leadership and civil rights awareness. Her husband died in 1977.

In 1996, Rosa received the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and in 1999 the Congressional Gold Medal of Honour.

The US Senate described her as "a living icon for freedom in America".

Looking back at the events she had triggered, Rosa said: "At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this.

"It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in."

At a celebration in her honour in 1988, she said: "I'm leaving this legacy to all of you, to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfilment of what our lives should be

CAPTION(S):

FARE PLAY: Rosa Lee Parks was travelling on an Alabama bus in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat for a white man. After her arrest, centre, campaigner Martin Luther King, right, organised a mass boycott by black people of the buses
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 26, 2005
Words:638
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