On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks cemented her place in the history books by refusing to hand over her seat to a white passenger – a criminal offense in what was then Montgomery, Alabama. This silent act of defiance helped the civil rights movement and made Parks a household name. But it's not the only thing she should remember. Here are some facts worth knowing about the icon for their 106th birthday.
. 1 She finished high school at a time when it was rare.
Although Rosa Parks had enjoyed the school, she set off at the age of 16 to look after her dying grandmother. When she was 1
. 2 She was active in politics.
Park's fight for equality for African Americans did not begin with her fateful arrest. In 1943 she joined the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of the NAACP and was until 1956 her secretary. Her responsibilities included traveling through the state and interviewing victims of discrimination and lynching witnesses. After moving from Alabama to Detroit, Parks worked as an assistant to US Representative John Conyers, where she helped find homes for the homeless.
. 3 The bus driver who arrested her in 1955 had already caused her problems earlier.
Park's first conflict with James Blake, the bus driver who had reported her to the police in 1955, came more than a decade earlier. In 1943 she boarded a bus run by Blake and, after paying her fare, asked her to go in the back door and re-board – a requirement for black drivers using the separate bus system. Instead of waiting for her to get back in, Blake continued as Parks got off the bus. She avoided the driver for more than ten years, until one day she safely got on his bus. When she refused to hand over her seat to a white passenger, Blake called the police and arrested them.
. 4 She contributed to the founding of the civil rights movement.
Parks never intended to start a movement, but that was soon after their arrest. Civil rights groups used their quiet protest as an opportunity to cast a national limelight over unconstitutional segregation laws in the deep south. The Montgomery Bus boycott began just days after being arrested, and less than a year later, the Supreme Court found the separation of buses in the city illegal. The arrest of parks and the boycott of buses are seen by many historians as a catalyst for the movement that led to federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
. 5 She was not the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat.
Just nine months before Parks in Montgomery wrote history, a 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested in the same city because she had not pulled out of her bus seat for a white passenger. Colvin was the first person to be arrested for violating Montgomery's bus-consolidation laws, but their actions were quickly overshadowed when parks became the face of the Montgomery bus boycott less than a year later.
. 6 She was arrested a second time. Not long after their historical arrest in 1955, Parks again came into conflict with the law on February 22, 1956. This time she was arrested with nearly 100 confreres because they had broken the segregation laws during the Montgomery bus boycott. The famous photo of Parks, fingerprinted by a police officer, came from this second arrest, though it was often falsely thought to show it first.
. 7 The founder of Little Caesars paid her rent for years.
After surviving a robbery and robbery in 1994 in her Detroit apartment, Parks needed a new home. Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars, heard about the plan and offered to cover her rent as long as she needed it. He and his wife Marian eventually paid for Parks to live in a safer home until she died in 2005 at the age of 92.
. 8 She was the first woman to be based in the US Capitol, Washington.
After her death in 2005, Parks was brought to the state under the Capitol Rotunda. The honor is reserved for the most respected citizens of the country – usually those who hold public office. Parks remains the only woman and one of only four private citizens who has received the honor.