Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus, touched off the Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the civil rights movement, is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 22, 1956. She was among some 100 people charged with violating segregation laws. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick/Troy Glasgow)
Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement
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William Pretzer was 5 years old when Rosa Parks was arrested. It was December 1, 1955. The 42-year-old seamstress lived in Montgomery, Alabama.  She was riding on a city bus. She was en route home after a day's work. She refused to give her seat to a white passenger.
 
The full import of the event did not register with Pretzer. After all, he was so young and lived more than 2,000 miles away in Sacramento, California. To be honest, it would take time for most people to gain enough perspective to see the protest for what it was. Today it is cited as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the United States. Parks now is known as the movement's so-called "mother."
 
Even now, as he looks over Parks' police report and fingerprints, Pretzer, is struck by the documents. He is a senior curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is in Washington.
 
"There is nothing that makes this event look extraordinary," he says. "It is being treated as a typical misdemeanor violation of the city code. In fact, that is exactly what it was."
 
Yet, while police dealt with the situation just like any other altercation on the city's segregated buses, Parks, her attorneys and NAACP leaders organized.
 
"Within the African American community, it is seen as an opportunity for progress to be made, for attention and pressure to be brought to bear on the white power structure," says Pretzer.
 
Parks' act of defiance inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This event helped Martin Luther King, Jr. emerge as a civil rights leader. The boycott lasted 381 days. On the 382nd day, backed by a Supreme Court ruling, the city's buses were officially integrated.
 
By Pretzer's definition, Parks is a history maker.
 
"History makers are those that sense the moment," he says.
 
Pretzer studied Parks' story in detail in the early 2000s. That is when he helped Detroit's Henry Ford Museum, where he worked for more than 20 years, acquire the retired bus in which the incident occurred.
 
Explore an analysis of Rosa Parks' arrest records, based on a conversation with Pretzer and information conveyed in Parks' 1992 autobiography Rosa Parks: My Story.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (162)
  • simonem-bur
    11/28/2016 - 11:23 a.m.

    Looking up her records is racial profiling. But to agree with the question: It is imperative to explore the records of Rosa Parks to know her background information. If they didn't look up her records she could have gotten away with other crimes.

  • kaitlynp-bur
    11/28/2016 - 11:26 a.m.

    I think it was really brave of Rosa to stand up for her rights, even though she knew the consequences. Many people wouldn't have done what she did that day,but many of us are glad she did because now we have equal rights and were not looked at a different way.Many of us are different,but we shouldn't be looked at differently were not toys or products that we can judge, we're humans and we have to be respected and treated fairly just like everyone else.

  • alyssab1-bur
    11/28/2016 - 11:28 a.m.

    According to the question, it is important to explore the arrest of Rosa parks because, it cam tell you what it was like when she was alive, and you can see how they treated each other.

  • isabellab3-bur
    11/28/2016 - 11:32 a.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks because black people, but mostly white people need to see that we will not be taken for granted. These racist white people need to know that we will not wait around to find out if they are going to make things better for us. Black people knew/know that about 80% of whites don't care about blacks. Even today white hillbillies treat black people like crap, and it is so stupid that they think that they can treat us any kind of way just because we have darker skin than them.

  • allisons-kul
    11/28/2016 - 12:29 p.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks so people actually understand her life. She did not refuse to give up her seat because she was a stubborn old lady who worked all day long and was tired, she refused to give up her seat to try to change the way of life for the African Americans. She did those things to get noticed and give people the idea that skin color doesn't determine the worth of a person's life. I really enjoyed reading this article.

    • brookeg-kul
      11/28/2016 - 12:36 p.m.

      I agree with Alison that it is import that we go back and look at the arrest records and fingerprints because it is very import to see.

    • eduardov-kul
      12/02/2016 - 12:34 p.m.

      I agree with Alison because she is really important and that people need to understand her life and it’s true that a person skin color doesn’t determine who they are.

  • brookeg-kul
    11/28/2016 - 12:33 p.m.

    I think that it is really cool how she didn’t stand up and she sparked a revolution. It is import to go back and look at the arrest records and her fingerprints because it is import to show people that a thing as little as not moving on a bus can become something bigger.

    • allisons-kul
      11/28/2016 - 12:35 p.m.

      I agree with you Brooke! Her small action had a huge outcome. Many people are not informed on why Rosa Parks did not give up her seat, looking up her records will help they know.

  • sydney-kul
    11/28/2016 - 12:37 p.m.

    This "history maker" is a really big part in African American history along with our history. I think what Rosa Parks did was really special to many African Americans. Her actions helped them gain courage to stand up for themselves. If Rosa Parks wouldn't have said "no" our lives would be really different. :) -Aleah

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