CHCO7u Numerous honorary degrees; major thoroughfare in Detroit is named after her; SCLC sponsors an annual Rosa Parks Freedom Award; Spingarn Medal, NAACP, 1979; Martin Luther King Jr Award, 1980; Service Award, Ebony, 1980; Martin Luther King Jr Nonviolent Peace Prize, 1980; The Eleanor Roosevelt Women of Courage Award, Wonder Women Foundation, 1984; Medal of Honor, awarded during the 100th birthday celebration of the Statue of Liberty, 1986; Martin Luther King Jr Leadership Award, 1987; Adam Clayton Powell Jr Legislative Achievement Award, 1990; Rosa Parks Peace Prize; honored with Day of Recognition by Wayne County Commission; U.S. Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, 1999.
According to the old saying, »some people are born to greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.« Greatness was certainly thrust upon Rosa Parks, but the modest former seamstress has found herself equal to the challenge. Known today as »the mother of the Civil Rights Movement,« Parks almost single-handedly set in motion a veritable revolution in the southern United States, a revolution that would eventually secure equal treatment under the law for all black Americans. »For those who lived through the unsettling 1950s and 1960s and joined the civil rights struggle, the soft-spoken Rosa Parks was more, much more than the woman who refused to give up her bus seat to a White man in Montgomery, Alabama,« wrote Richette L. Haywood in Jet. »[Hers] was an act that forever changed White America's view of Black people, and forever changed America itself.«
From a modern perspective, Parks's actions on December 1, 1955 hardly seem extraordinary: tired after a long day's work, she refused to move from her seat in order to accommodate a white passenger on a city bus in Montgomery. At the time, however, her defiant gesture actually broke a law, one of many bits of Jim Crow legislation that assured second-class citizenship for blacks. Overnight Rosa Parks became a symbol for hundreds of thousands of frustrated black Americans who suffered outrageous indignities in a racist society. As Lerone Bennett, Jr. wrote in Ebony, Parks was consumed not by the prospect of making history, but rather »by the tedium of survival in the Jim Crow South.« The tedium had become unbearable, and Rosa Parks acted to change it. Then, she was an outlaw. Today she is a hero.