Rosa Parks, dead at 92, is remembered

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rosa Parks n the mother of the civil rights movement n died quietly Monday night in Detroit, Mich., at 92.

The former seamstress made headlines and history in 1955 when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., to a white man.

The incident triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system by blacks that was organized by a 26-year-old Baptist minister, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Montgomery’s segregated bus service was unconstitutional.

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Park’s decision to remain in her seat that December day changed the lives of generations of Americans.

“She had a lot of influence on my life … and opened a lot of doors,” said Helen Daughtrey, vice president of the Suffolk branch of the NAACP.

“She was calm, strong-willed and steadfast in her belief at anything that was right and fair could be accomplished through unity without violence.

“She was a beautiful person,” Daughtrey said. “I’m sorry about losing her, but I believe she accomplished her mission in life.

“I’m glad she came along during my time in life. I have a lot of memories thanking God for her life and her grace and dignity.”

Today’s generation of children often doesn’t understand the significance of Park’s actions, Daughtrey said.

But her 9-year-old granddaughter, AnToneah Daughtrey-Johnson said she knew exactly who Parks was.

“We were just talking about her in school the other day,” said the Mack Benn Jr., Elementary School student. “She was the mother of diplomacy; she taught us that we should not have to give up our seat just because of our color.

“Words can’t express how surprised I was to learn she had died today.”

John Riddick, a longtime local civil rights activist and Suffolk School Board member, believes Parks was instrumental in putting the brakes on discrimination.

“Her refusal to yield her sea was just like a stop sign for discrimination,” he said. “She sent a message that freedom was for all Americans. She was testing the legality of segregation.”

T.C. Williams, president of the Rosemont-Lloyd Place Civic League, remembers enduring similar situations while traveling on buses during segregation. His experiences only strengthen his respect for Parks.

“The situation is disgusting; it must have been humiliating for her,” he said. “She had to be courageous; she had to have some fire in her belly.”

Thelma Hinton, a member of the Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority, agreed.

“She was a civil rights pioneer, a courageous, phenomenal woman who stood for all that was right,” she said. “She showed boldness, a courage that few exhibited at that time.

“Rosa Parks was one in a million.

“I’m sorry she passed, but her legacy will always be with us. Sometimes I think this country needs more (people like) Rosa Parks.”

Dominic Cobb, 18, a sales associate at Dapper’s Clothing, said many youth today could use a refresher course to get a better understanding of Parks’ actions.

“I think people take things they have known all their life for granted … and don’t really respect it at all,” he said. “It amazes me that black kids today would rather sit in the back of the bus.”

Cristal Carter, 22, agreed, saying many people don’t realize the powerful influence that Parks had on their lives.

“She had the strength and courage to fight for what she believed in,” she said. “Back then, our freedom was not a given.”