Mark Bittlestone – Shrewsbury House School

Tell the whole story revolving round ONE of these famous quotations:

(His choice:)

‘One person’s contribution changed the course of history.’  Rosa Parks

One person’s contribution, in this case, changed the course of history.  Rosa Parks was a middle-aged black woman living in Montgomery.  In 1956, she was asked, while on a bus, to give up her seat to a white person.

‘Are you going to get up?’ he said.

No, I am not,’ she replied.

Then I will have to call the police,’ he said.

‘You do that,’ she replied.

Montgomery was in Alabama which had been one of the breakaway Confederate States in the American Civil war (1861-1865).  As it had not been allowed to keep black people as slaves, it had passed laws of segregation, called the Jim Crow Laws’ after a fictional minstrel.  These in effect condemned the black people of Alabama.  One of these laws stated that if a white person wanted to sit down in a bus, that row must have no black people in it.  Other laws followed the same tune: for instance, black restaurants (poor), white restaurants (excellent), black train carriages (poor), white train carriages (excellent).

Rosa Parks was on the receiving end of the bus segregation law.  She was fined $12 (a large amount then) and imprisoned for two months, as this was seen as a serious offence.  Her unjust sentencing led to the ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott,’ sparked off by Martin Luther King.  This was a boycott of the bus service by black people every Monday when they avoided the buses, hitching cheap taxi rides or sharing cars.

When this had little effect, Martin Luther King began to organise protests. These often grew to riots and made life dangerous for white people in Montgomery.  Martin Luther King said: ‘Rosa Parks is one of the most respected ladies in Montgomery; not one of the most respected black ladies, but one of the most respected ladies in Montgomery.’  Later that year, he gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech, sparking Civil Rights protests across the southern USA states.

Eventually the Supreme Court passed laws in the late 1960s that effectively ended such segregation.

Although Rosa Parks did not go out on that day to change the course of history, she sparked off mass protests, and without her, it is doubtful that Martin Luther King would have risen to such an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement and the history of the USA.

Rosa Parks died peacefully in September 2005, a famous and respected grandmother.

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