Printer Friendly

The legacy of Rosa Parks.

Rosa Parks never intended to make history. But she was determined to take a stand. By refusing to give up her seat on a bus one evening in 1955, she helped spark the modern civil rights movement.

It has been widely reported that Parks, who worked as a seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama, kept her seat because she was tired when she boarded the bus that fateful evening. But if she was tired of anything, it was of being treated as a second-class citizen. She was tired of Jim Crow laws that kept blacks from equal opportunities, tired of unfair hurdles that kept most of them from the voting booth.

Parks died last month at the age of 92. Thousands of people from around the world filed past her casket as she lay in state in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. She was the first woman ever to receive such an honor. This play recalls her courageous life.

Scene 1

Narrator A: Rosa McCauley Parks is born in 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Growing up, she and her younger brother, Sylvester, live with their maternal grandparents in rural Pine Level, a town near Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa McCauley is 6 years old when she realizes that blacks in the Southern United States face discrimination, unequal education, and extreme cruelty.

Rosa: Grandpa, why do you always carry your shotgun?

Grandfather: I don't know how long I would last if anyone from the Ku Klux Klan [KKK] broke in here. But I'm determined to get the first man who comes through the door.

Narrator A: To intimidate [frighten] blacks, KKK members ride through black neighborhoods in the South. They burn homes and churches, beating and sometimes killing people.

Rosa: What if those men come here in the middle of the night?

Sylvester: Maybe we should sleep with our clothes on. That way, we'll be able to escape quickly!

Grandma Rose: Now, children, settle down--you'll have nightmares.

Rosa: I hope I'm not asleep when the men get here. I want to see Grandpa shoot one of them.

Grandma Rose: Honey, you need your rest. You've had a cold for weeks now.

Narrator A: Young Rosa suffers from chronic tonsillitis and frequent colds, among other ailments.

Grandma Rose: Get on up to bed. Nothing's going to happen.

Narrator A: No Klan members ever break into Rosas home. But throughout her life, she vividly recalls stories of abuse that others suffered.

Scene 2

Narrator B: As she grows older, Rosa becomes more and more aware of the injustice that blacks face. As a child, she attends a one-room school.

Teacher: Boys, please go outside and collect some more firewood.

Rosa: It's not fair that we don't have heat like the white children's school. We don't even have real windows.

Narrator B: Most black schools in the South are in session only five months out of the year. Children like Rosa spend the rest of the time picking cotton and other crops.

Rosa: The sun is burning into me.

Grandma Rose: Maybe things will get better for our people when you grow up. Until then, just hold your head high, and be proud of who you are.

Scene 3

Narrator C: In 1932, Rosa marries Raymond Parks, a barber who attends civil rights meetings in secret. Speaking out against segregation is extremely dangerous.

Like all of his friends, Rosa calls Raymond "Parks." They live in Montgomery, where Rosa works as a seamstress. In 1943, she joins the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP], a civil rights organization to which Raymond belongs.

Raymond Parks: Rosa, you'll be one of the first women in the NAACP.

Rosa: I'm a little nervous, Parks.

Parks: At least it's a little safer now for women to participate.

Rosa: We all have to stand up for what is right. I'm tired of our being mistreated. I had to take a test three times before they let me vote.

Narrator C: At the first NAACP meeting that Rosa attends, the group elects its officers.

E. D. Nixon: Mrs. Parks, you have been chosen as our new secretary.

Narrator C: Rosa is too timid to say no. But she enjoys her role, and helps prepare many articles and letters about civil rights issues.

Scene 4

Narrator D: After more than a decade of working for equality, Rosa is discouraged. Change has been either slow or nonexistent. On December 1, 1955, after leaving her job at a downtown Montgomery department store, Rosa boards a bus for home. She finds a seat in the middle of the bus, in the first row of the "colored" section. Three other black citizens are already seated in the row. Blacks must give up their seats in that section if a white person is without one.

Soon, more people board the bus. The driver notices that a white man is standing.

Bus driver (to Rosa and the other three): Let me have those front seats.

Narrator D: No one moves.

Bus driver: Y'all better let me have those seats.

Narrator D: The other three stand, but Rosa slides over to the window seat.

Bus driver: Lady, are you going to stand up?

Rosa: No, I will not.

Bus driver: Well, I'm going to have you arrested.

Rosa: You may do so.

Narrator D: While the bus stays put, other black people become angry.

Passenger 1 (mumbling): Can't she move to the back like everyone else?

Passenger 2: Yeah, I want to get home.

Narrator D: Several black people leave the bus in frustration. Eventually, two police officers arrive.

Police officer (to Rosa): Why don't you just stand up?

Rosa: Why do you push us around?

Police Officer: I don't know, but the law is the law, and you're under arrest.

Narrator D: Rosa leaves the bus with the officers. She is held in jail on the charge of violating segregation laws. After several hours, Rosa is able to call Parks. He, Nixon, and others come to bail her out of jail.

Nixon: Rosa, would you be willing to make your trial a test case?

Rosa: Parks, what do you think?

Parks: I don't like the idea of your being in danger. But we must fight the evil of segregation.

Nixon: Rosa, you are the perfect person to do this!

Scene 5

Narrator E: Local civil rights leaders immediately call for black citizens to boycott (refuse to use) the buses. They create pamphlets to distribute.

Jo Ann Robinson: How does this sound? "If we do not do something to stop these arrests, they will continue. The next time it may be you, or your daughter, or your mother."

Narrator E: Nixon decides that local black ministers, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will be the best ones to mobilize support for the boycott. A meeting is quickly arranged at a local black church. The church is filled. People who cannot get in stand outside, listening by way of a loudspeaker.

Nixon: You who are afraid, you'd better get your hat and coat and go home. This is going to be a long struggle.

Narrator E: King rises to speak.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: One of the great glories of democracy is the right to protest. If you will protest courageously and yet with dignity, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will pause and say, "There lived a great people--a black people--who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization."

Narrator E: The crowd cheers. They unanimously agree to continue the boycott, however long it takes.


The black citizens of Montgomery kept their word. For more than a year they refused to ride the buses, until Rosas case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In November 1956, the Court declared segregated seating on public transportation unconstitutional. The ruling took effect on December 20.

Rosa Parks became known as "the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement." Her brave action, and the nonviolent protests that followed, led to the passage of new laws protecting the rights of black citizens, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In Montgomery, Rosa faced death threats and lost her job. Soon after the Supreme Court decision, she and Parks moved to Detroit, Michigan. She spent the rest of her life helping to educate young people and working for equality.

Words to Know

* discrimination: unfair treatment of a person or group based on prejudice.

* Jim Crow laws: practices or laws, mostly in the South, that enforced racial segregation.

* Ku Klux Klan: a white supremacist organization based in the South.

* test case: a suit filed in order to challenge the constitutionality of a law.

Cast of Characters

Rosa Parks

Grandfather, Rosas grandfather

Sylvester, Rosa's brother

Grandma Rose, Rosas grandmother


Raymond Parks, Rosas husband

Edgar Daniel (E. D.) Nixon, president of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP

Bus driver

Passenger 1

Passenger 2

Police officer

Jo Ann Robinson, professor and civil rights organizer

Dr, Martin Luther King Jr., minister and civil rights leader

Narrators A-E

Civil Rights Time Line

Here are some key events in the U.S. civil rights movement.


The U.S. Supreme Court announces its unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. It rules that separate schools for blacks and whites violate the 14th Amendment guarantee of "equal protection of the laws."



Thousands of blacks in Montgomery, Alabama, refuse to ride the buses. Inspired by Rosa Parks's arrest, the yearlong boycott leads to a Supreme Court ruling banning segregated public transportation.



Nine black students try to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. White protest turns violent. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends U.S. Army troops to protect "the Little Rock Nine," who do enroll and attend classes.



Four black students sit at an all-white lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, refusing to leave until they are served. Others join the sit-in. After six months of protest, the whites-only rule is lifted.


James Meredith tries to enroll at the all-white University of Mississippi. White protest erupts into violence; two people are killed. President John F. Kennedy sends federal troops to restore order and protect Meredith. He enrolls and later graduates.


An estimated 250,000 people, black and white, join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.



About 1,000 young people travel to the South to encourage blacks to exercise their right to register and vote. These Freedom Riders, black and white, are met by angry white protesters; three young men are murdered in Mississippi.

Protesting Mississippi's all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention, Fannie Lou Hamer calls for the right of black citizens to participate and vote.

Your Turn


1. Do you think that all U.S. citizens enjoy equal rights today? Explain.

2. Rosa Parks risked her life to fight injustice. Could you have done what she did? Why or why not?


Students should understand

* what Rosa Parks did, and her place in U.S. history.


Parks was not the first African-American to resist bus segregation. Other notable efforts include that of the baseball great Jackie Robinson who, in 1944, would not move to the back of an Army bus. He was arrested, court-martialed, and acquitted. The same year, Irene Morgan refused to give up her seat on an interstate Greyhound bus. She won her Supreme Court case (Morgan v. Virginia, 1946), but Southern states ignored the ruling. In March 1955, a Montgomery teenager named Claudette Colvin was arrested for the same offense as Parks. The NAACP considered making Colvin its test case but, among other problems, she was given to yelling and cursing. Parks's quiet dignity--like that of Robinson desegregating major-league baseball in 1947--made her ideal for the test case.


MAKING INFERENCES: Would the boycott have been effective if only some blacks had refused to ride Montgomery buses? Explain. (Answers will vary, but should acknowledge that most, if not all, had to cooperate for the boycott to work.)

SUPPORTING AN OPINION: Have all Americans' civil rights now been assured, of are further changes necessary? (Answers will vary.)


CREATIVE SOLUTIONS: Parks and the Montgomery boycotters used simple, yet effective, nonviolent tactics to oppose discrimination. Ask students to consider a cause they believe in. What simple, nondestructive tactics might effectively demonstrate their convictions?



* Civic ideals and practices: How citizens must sometimes make extraordinary efforts to ensure their rights.

* Individuals, groups, and institutions: How the actions of a few individuals can spur large numbers of people into effecting change.



* Parks, Rosa, Rosa Parks: My Story (Penguin Putnam, 1999). Grades 6-12.

* Williams, Horaee Randall, and Ben Beard, This Day in Civil Rights History (Emmis Books, 2005). Grades 8 and up.


* Academy of Achievement: /parObio-1

* Alabama Archives Teacher Packet /rights/rightsl.html


* Decide whether each sentence is true, false, or ah opinion, Write your answer on the blank line provided.

--6. Jim Crow laws were passed to protect the right of Southern blacks to vote.

--7. Rosa Parks had been involved in civil rights issues for more than a decade before her bus protest.

--8. Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat simply because her feet hurt.

--9. The other black people sitting in the same bus section as Rosa Parks should have refused to get up, too.

10. The success of the bus boycott was due to the efforts of many people, not just those of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.


6. false

7. true

8. false

9. opinion

10. true


11. nicotine

12. rebel

13. bored or short-sighted

14. lung cancer

15. medical costs


16. A

17. C

18. A

19. B

20. A
COPYRIGHT 2005 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:McCabe, Suzanne
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Article Type:Play
Date:Nov 28, 2005
Previous Article:Pursuing dreams: the New Ali Center.
Next Article:Why do teens smoke? Despite the risks, many kids are still lighting up. Why?

Related Articles
Rosa Parks.
Junior Scholastic index.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters