warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

5 Surprising Things About Rosa Parks

Chhaya Nene |
February 4, 2013 | 5:14 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

One hundred years ago today, a woman who refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama was born, a woman whose name has become etched in history: Rosa Cauley Parks.

Parks was honored nationwide today with the unveiling of a commemorative postage stamp at the Museum of African American History in Detroit and in Dearborn Michigan, with a 12-hour celebration that featured speeches, live music, presentations, and the ability to sit on the same bus, in the same seat Parks sat.

Park’s story of civil disobedience, perhaps best captured in the iconic photo seen here has gained notoriety and popularity throughout the years. While the photo is symbolic of an era filled with racial discrimination, it is also misleading. 

Here are 5 things most people don’t know about Rosa Parks:


5: The gentleman seated behind Parks was not a disinterested White segregationist.

His name was Nicholas Chriss and he was a United Press International reporter sent to cover the landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that a segregated bus system was illegal. Chriss’ story landed him a seat on the Montgomery bus where Ms. Parks was seated, and a UPI photographer snapped the (in) famous photo on December 21st, 1956.


4. Rosa Parks or “Jack of All Trades"

Parks worked many jobs throughout her life. One of her jobs was as a housekeeper and seamstress for a liberal white couple named Clifford and Virginia Durr. The Durrs became her friend and sponsored her to attend an education center for activism regarding worker’s rights and racial equality. One year later when Parks was arrested in Montgomery for refusing to give up her seat, Clifford Durr bailed her out of jail.  


3. Grievances with the King

One evening in 1955, during the bus boycotts, a group gathered at the Mount Zion Church to discuss strategies. In an effort to further the protests, the group elected a newcomer and young man who later became an international icon for Civil Rights: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  By 1957 Parks moved from Alabama to Virginia for multiple reasons one of which was because she disagreed with King’s civil disobedience strategies.


2. Strength of Character

Parks continually fought for Civil Rights but did so amidst financial and health troubles. In her 40’s Parks and her husband suffered from stomach ulcers that eventually required hospitalization. Twenty years later, Parks’ brother, mother, and husband were all diagnosed with cancer. Throughout her life, Parks donated most of her money to Civil Rights causes and the rest towards family’s illness with medical bills and rent. In 1994, Parks was attacked and robbed in her home, an attack in which she was struck in the face


1. Funeral Firsts

Amongst Parks’ many recognitions and accolades, upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie with honors in the Capitol Rotunda. Later this year a full statue of Parks will be the first African-American woman statue in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall


More information on Parks and her life achievement can be found here


Reach the reporter here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.