It’s Black History month, and today is the birthday of the late Rosa Parks (1913-2005). Ms. Parks is remembered and honored as the catalyst in the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white man (December 1955).* In December 1955, African-Americans and others refused to ride segregated buses. Not only were African-Americans assigned to certain sections of the bus (the rear), but in many instances, they had to step up and pay their fares at the front of the bus, disembark, then enter the bus through the rear door to be seated. In April 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional. The law was passed but not without threats and bodily harm to participants in the boycott (those who dared to challenge segregation). Many African-Americans still fear(ed) the (illegal) system and continue(d) to move to the back of the bus. On Jan. 20, 2009, the first African-American was seated as the 44th president of the United States of America. The world noted and celebrated this historical event. The world knew that President Obama’s appeal went beyond (and in spite of) his color. Masses celebrated the hope that President Obama would lead America down a path of economic change, improved humanitarianism, international cooperation, global environmental protection, intelligence and peace. Many people of color told their youth that President Obama’s rise to the presidency meant that they, too, could be anything if they tried. Hope! Of course, one must acknowledge President Obama’s intelligence and drive in achieving his successes, but one must also acknowledge and appreciate those who came before him – those who suffered and struggled to build a foundation of dignity and equality for all. Thank you, Ms. Rosa Parks, for the part you played in the struggle. Happy Birthday. *There were others who refused to give up their seats prior to Ms. Parks.
Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree... More by Peggy Tarr