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Remembering Rosa Parks: Taking a Stand For Freedom

Rosa Parks - the woman who helped spark the American civil rights movement - has died at the age of 92. VOA's Jim Bertel reports this remarkable woman took a stand by sitting down.

Nearly 50 years ago, Rosa Parks, an African-American, made a simple decision that inspired a revolution. While riding in the front of a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a white man demanded she give up her seat.

Rosa Parks said no. "I didn't want to. I didn't think I should have to. I didn't feel that it was the right thing for us to be enduring."

At that time, segregation laws in place since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era required separation of the races in buses, restaurants and public accommodations throughout the southern United States. Ms. Parks was arrested, tried and found guilty of violating local segregation laws.

Her arrest triggered a 381day boycott of the city bus system by the black community.

Leading the protest was a young, charismatic preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. "For several weeks now, we the Negro citizens of Montgomery, have been involved in a nonviolent protest against the injustices which we have experienced on the buses for a number of years."

That boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the city's segregated busing policy was illegal and set off a chain of events that led to the end of legalized segregation in the United States.

Rosa Parks became known as the mother of the civil rights movement and continued her fight for equality on the national stage.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick believes Ms. Parks fight for equality benefited people around the world. "This is probably the most important figure in world history. The most important transitional moment in the civil rights or equal rights fight."

Rosa Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her work and was even honored by the city that once banished her to the back of the bus. But the legacy of this former seamstress who moved a nation is one that reaches beyond borders.

Ms. Parks realized her significant role, "I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... and other people would be also free."

Rosa Parks was 92.