Rosa Parks was much more than the woman who wouldn’t give up her seat on the bus in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. She was a devout follower of Christ who believed in loving your enemies and fighting against injustice.

Her refusal to move led to an arrest that set-in motion the public bus boycott which brought national attention to the civil rights movement. She became a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King and spoke around the country to educate people regarding the injustices blacks faced in the deep south.

Rosa was born in 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her mom was a schoolteacher and her dad was a carpenter and stonemason. Faith in God and dedication to church community was a huge part of her family life. She said this, “Daily devotions played an important part in my childhood. Every day before supper, and before we went to services on Sundays, my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and grandfather would pray… I remember finding such comfort and peace while reading the Bible. Its teachings became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems.”*

When Rosa was young, the economy in the South was greatly affected by a boll weevil plague that affected cotton production. Her family moved to live with her father’s family in overcrowded conditions. Eventually, her mother left and took Rosa to live with her family. She saw her father very little after that. However, life with her grandparents and mother were enriched by their involvement in the local African Methodist Episcopal Church where her uncle preached.

Despite her strong family support system, Rosa dealt regularly with racism. When she was treated poorly or called names, she would repeat Psalm 23 or 27 in her head and cling to her faith. She was also greatly encouraged through her time at the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls – also referred to as Miss White’s school. Miss White and the other teachers were white but served 300 black girls – teaching them self-respect, practical skills, and sharpening their minds. The school was burned down when Rosa was 15, but seeds were planted during those years that would later sprout in her advocacy for civil rights.

Rosa longed to be a teacher like her mother, but was not able to finish her schooling. She took care of her sick grandmother and also worked to help provide for the family. She met Raymond Parks when she was 18. He opened her eyes to civil rights issues and encouraged her to attend meetings and get involved in advocacy. After they were married, Raymond helped Rosa find a way to attend school and finish her high school diploma. She worked mainly as a seamstress but also worked in a hospital for a time. To do these jobs she had to ride on public buses sitting in segregated areas.

After struggling hard to register to vote and getting more involved in advocacy groups, Rosa continued to encounter injustice all around her. On December 1, 1955, she was tired physically from work but also emotionally from constant unfairness. She believed the Bible taught her to love her enemies but also included a social mandate. She wrote, “people should stand up for rights, just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharoah.”*

Rosa did just that! Her unwillingness to move from her seat on the bus got her arrested but also brought support from both whites and blacks who rode the momentum of her bold choice. She stayed involved working at one point as a dispatcher for the cabs, church vans, and collection of vehicles that transported people to work during the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.

However, because of the national attention, Rosa got many death threats. She and Raymond moved to Detroit to be near her brother and escape the violence in 1957. Rosa worked as a seamstress, took opportunities to speak about civil rights when invitations came, and participated with Dr. King in the 1963 historic march on Washington.

She eventually became the receptionist for a Congressman in Michigan and worked in his Detroit office for 23 years. She wrote several books including My Story, Quiet Strength, and Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth. She never gave up her activism and has become known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

From Rosa Parks we can remember to cling to God and His Word remembering that there is a time for everything – sometimes we are called to boldly stand up for injustice.

Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Where is the Lord calling you to defend the rights of others?


*Rosa Parks, Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope, and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 54.