“But let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.”
1 Peter 3:4
ANDREW, THE UNSUSPECTING ANGEL
On December 1st 1955, a bus driver named James Blake asked Rosa Parks to give up her seat in the “colored” section of the bus. The “white” section was filled up. Rosa refused and set off the Montgomery, Alabama bus crisis. The crisis that catapulted Martin Luther King’s career and the public start of the civil rights movement in America.
Rosa was tired of the rules that had infected her community and her. She was tired of the oppressive commands of a society that felt because of the color of her skin she was inferior. Though a quiet and peaceful woman, this moment was her “enough.” In regards to this moment Rosa explained her action as follows; “I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear…It was time for someone to stand up–or, in my case, sit down. I refused to move.”
For her actions she was arrested. Later she was fired from her job as a seamstress and endured death threats. Life became very hard for Rosa.
What a lot of people don’t know was that Rosa was the Secretary of local branch of the NAACP. Later she would move to Detroit and briefly resumed her career as a seamstress, which she left to become the secretary of John Conyers, a member of the House of Representatives.
Rosa continued her career of quiet activism with the Black Power movement and was an advocate for political prisoners. Throughout her life she continued to quietly push back against racism and inequality.
The Montgomery bus company had to endure a long period of passenger decline due to this incident. All of the local black population refused to ride the buses and many white folks joined in as well. For one year, people would ride share or walk long distances to work. The bus company only survived when they agreed to a Supreme Court order to change their rules.
Martin Luther King became a national figure from this incident. His calm and intellectual approach captured national interest. He preached non-violence in resisting the oppressive life circumstances of the black community. He himself was arrested numerous times for protesting unfair treatment. Later he won the Nobel Peace prize and became a national figure. His fame grew to the point that two presidents, Kennedy and Johnson, would take his calls. He was a significant catalyst for the Civil Rights bill passed in 1964.
Rosa spent her life quietly helping others. It was until much later that she was recognized for her bravery. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. After her death, a statue of her was built and now stands in the National Statuary Hall.
Upon her death in 2005 she became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capital Rotunda. Congress later would call her the “first lady of Civil Rights.”
It would have been nice if in the moment she created the events that started Montgomery Bus crisis, if people and our nation had supported her refusal. But life isn’t like this. Her act of bravery created a personal crisis for her, but never defeated Rosa.
We can only imagine what each of us would have done in the same moment. This story had a positive outcome, initially at the expense of a quiet and polite woman. A woman who had long watched her community suffer when they resisted incredibly unfair practices. A woman who knew her life would be in jeopardy. A woman who stood up when she had enough. Her only ally in that moment was her faith in God. A faith that stood with her for the balance of her life.
Rosa lived with a quiet strength. When she wrote the book of her life story, her publishers suggested the title “Quiet Strength.” A book that details the life of a remarkably strong woman who knew through God it was time to stand up. Rosa wasn’t looking for the fame that followed, she just wanted the rules to be clear and fair. Her only aim. She has become in our national history, a Christian heroine.
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
Photo by Ant Rozetsky
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