On this day in 1955, Rosa Louise Parks (1913-2005), returning from a hard day's work, boarded a Montgomery, Alabama city bus.
The quiet, African American seamstress settled into a seat near the front, then refused to obey the laws of segregation and give up her seat to a white man.
"Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it," Parks explained in her book, Quiet Strength (1994).
"I was determined to achieve the total freedom that our history lessons taught us we were entitled to, no matter what the sacrifice."
Parks was arrested and fined $14. Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott led by Martin Luther King, Jr. Over 42,000 African Americans (three-quarters of the ridership) refused to ride public transportation in Montgomery.
Dr. King said in 1955: "If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, 'There lived a great people—a black people—who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.'"
The nonviolent, 13-month protest ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation on public buses unconstitutional.
A simple act of courage by one woman sparked the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
"Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others," she said. "I believe we are here on the planet earth to live, grow up and do what we can do to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom."
Take charge and make a change.