Rosa Parks

Public School Integration Workshop - Aug. 21, 1956

Rosa Parks
August 21, 1956— Monteagle, Tennessee
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Mr. Pierce, Mrs. Clark, and ladies and gentlemen, the whole cause of our trouble in Montgomery, as anywhere else, is segregation which is the evil that exists, the artificial legal segregation, and the transportation is very painful, very humiliating, and the drivers made very good use of it. Our city ordinance, of course, says that a driver has police powers in which he can enforce segregation by moving his passengers. If he desires a person to move from one seat, there should be another for this person to take it. If a colored person is sitting too near the front or somewhere near, the white person should take it; this person if ordered from a seat should have another one available. In my own case this was not true and as well as in others where arrests had taken place.

In Montgomery, long before our protest began, on some occasions, I had been on committees to appear before the city officials and bus company officials with requests that they improve our conditions that existed that were so humiliating and degrading to our spirit, as well as sometimes physical discomfort in riding the bus. We would have some vague promises and be given the runaround and nothing was ever done about it. And they continued to grow worse instead of better; it showed no improvement whatever.

As late as March 1955, when this fifteen-year-old girl in Montgomery, a high school girl was arrested for not giving up a seat, even much further to the rear of the bus than I was; she was handcuffed and taken to jail and of course tried and found guilty on at least three counts and put on probation. And there was another arrest in the fall, about October, of a teenage girl who refused to give up a seat, I'm sure to stand, and she paid her fine.

And when my arrest occurred, of course, that is when the protests actually began in Montgomery, and I want to say here that it was not at all planned on my part, because I, at that time, was only interested in getting home from work and trying to rest and be prepared to work the next day. While I have always been against segregation because of its placing persons in inferior positions because of something that they have no control of—the color of their skin—it is also bad if not worse for the person imposing the segregation. I'm sure people who enforce such inhuman laws cannot in all fairness to themselves feel that they are doing the right thing if they look at the issue from a Christian and human standpoint. So it is my opinion, it has always been, and I'm sure it always will be, that we must abolish such evil practices where they are legal, especially, and every person should be given their right to live and treat others as they would like to be treated.

And it was with this thought, when the officer placed me under arrest, said that he didn't know why the laws were pushing us around, I felt that some of us should find out in some way. I had no idea that it would cause the interest and excitement that it did, or cause the movement that took place. But I felt that at some time and once and for all, after this question had never been answered, that it should be known: why we do things and why we have to obey such unfair laws; it is unfair, unjust, and unchristian. And as long as we continue to be pushed around, we were getting treated much worse, and there had to be a stopping point, so this seemed to have been a place for me to stop being pushed around and find out what human rights that we had, if any.

As printed in Houck, D.W., and Dixon, D.E. (Eds.) (2009). Women and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965. Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi.