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December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks arrested

Rosa Parks
A Montgomery, Alabama, police officer fingerprints Parks after her arrest.

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(CNN) -- Rosa Parks did not intend to get arrested as she made her way home from work on December 1, 1955. Little did the 42-year-old seamstress know that an act of hers soon would make her a pivotal symbol of the civil rights movement and help end segregation laws in the South.

That evening after work, Parks took a seat in the front of the black section of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The bus filled up, and the bus driver demanded that she move so a white male passenger could have her seat.

But Parks refused to give up her seat, and police arrested her. Four days later, Parks was convicted of disorderly conduct.

start quoteAll I was doing was trying to get home from work.end quote
-- Rosa Parks to NBC, 1985
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Rosa Parks takes a stand for civil rights in Montgomery, Alabama
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That same day, a group of African Americans founded the Montgomery Improvement Association and named the young pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church -- the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- as its leader, and a bus boycott was begun.

For the next 381 days, African-Americans -- who, according to Time magazine, had made up two-thirds of Montgomery bus riders -- boycotted public transportation to protest Parks' arrest and, in turn, segregation laws.

The mass movement marked one of the largest and most successful challenges of segregation and catapulted King to the forefront of the civil rights movement.

The boycott ended on November 13, 1956, after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Montgomery's segregrated bus service was unconstitutional.

Parks, facing regular threats and having lost her job, moved from Alabama to Michigan in 1957. She joined the staff of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, in 1965, championing civil liberties. Parks later earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal.

Now 90, Parks was the subject of the documentary "Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks," which received a 2002 Oscar nomination for best documentary short.


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