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An act of defiance

1 December 2010 by davidl

Today marks 55 years since Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress, defied the segregation laws of the southern states of the USA by refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white man, and in doing so became a figurehead for the Civil Rights movement.

As the bus she was travelling on in Montgomery, Alabama, became more crowded, the bus driver decided to move the ‘colored’ sign which divided the passengers by race further back the bus, and demanded that Parks also move back to allow white passengers to sit down — Parks’ refusal and subsequent arrest led to a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system, organised by the then-unknown Reverend Martin Luther King. Though Parks was not the first to defy segregation laws in this way, her protest was the catalyst for mass action which led ultimately to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and an end to segregation.

Parks’ story is just one of the inspirational stories in the history of the Civil Rights movement: find out more in the Legacy gallery of the International Slavery Museum.

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