FEBRUARY 4, 1913

Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in Montgomery during the 1955 bus boycott. Credit: National Archives

Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Although she is best known for refusing to give up her bus seat, she was active in the civil rights struggle long before. She and her husband, Raymond, became involved in the Scottsboro Boys case.

In 1943, she became secretary of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, working on voter registration and investigating a series of sexual assaults of Black women that went unpunished in Alabama.

She, too, was the victim of an attempted rape by a white neighbor. “I was ready to die, but give my consent?” she said. “Never. Never. Never.”

After refusing to give up her bus seat, she became a worldwide icon and driving force for the civil rights movement.

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear,” she said. “Knowing what must be done does away with fear.”

After her 2005 death, she became the first woman to lie in state at the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. On the 50th anniversary of her courageous act, transit authorities in New York City and some other cities left the seats behind the bus drivers empty to honor her.

In 2013, Congress added her statue at the U.S. Capitol, making her the first Black woman represented in Statuary Hall. Before her death, she noted that “racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.