Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus, touched off the Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the civil rights movement, is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., Feb. 22, 1956. She was among some 100 people charged with violating segregation laws. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick/Troy Glasgow)
Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement
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William Pretzer was 5 years old when Rosa Parks was arrested. It was December 1, 1955. The 42-year-old seamstress lived in Montgomery, Alabama.  She was riding on a city bus. She was en route home after a day's work. She refused to give her seat to a white passenger.
 
The full import of the event did not register with Pretzer. After all, he was so young and lived more than 2,000 miles away in Sacramento, California. To be honest, it would take time for most people to gain enough perspective to see the protest for what it was. Today it is cited as the beginning of the civil rights movement in the United States. Parks now is known as the movement's so-called "mother."
 
Even now, as he looks over Parks' police report and fingerprints, Pretzer, is struck by the documents. He is a senior curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is in Washington.
 
"There is nothing that makes this event look extraordinary," he says. "It is being treated as a typical misdemeanor violation of the city code. In fact, that is exactly what it was."
 
Yet, while police dealt with the situation just like any other altercation on the city's segregated buses, Parks, her attorneys and NAACP leaders organized.
 
"Within the African American community, it is seen as an opportunity for progress to be made, for attention and pressure to be brought to bear on the white power structure," says Pretzer.
 
Parks' act of defiance inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This event helped Martin Luther King, Jr. emerge as a civil rights leader. The boycott lasted 381 days. On the 382nd day, backed by a Supreme Court ruling, the city's buses were officially integrated.
 
By Pretzer's definition, Parks is a history maker.
 
"History makers are those that sense the moment," he says.
 
Pretzer studied Parks' story in detail in the early 2000s. That is when he helped Detroit's Henry Ford Museum, where he worked for more than 20 years, acquire the retired bus in which the incident occurred.
 
Explore an analysis of Rosa Parks' arrest records, based on a conversation with Pretzer and information conveyed in Parks' 1992 autobiography Rosa Parks: My Story.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (121)
  • vmargaret-dav
    11/25/2016 - 02:19 p.m.

    In response to "Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement," I agree that Rosa Parks started a movement. One reason I agree is that she showed people that they should stand up for what they believe in. Another reason is that instead of waiting for around for something to be done she did it herself and started a movement. It says in the article, "'Within the African American community, it is seen as an opportunity for progress to be made, for attention and pressure to be brought to bear on the white power structure,' says Pretzer." A third reason is that Rosa Parks opened people eyes to the fact that African Americans were not being treated fairly even though some people argue that not moving to a different seat was a small act, I think that Rosa Parks started some thing very important.

  • 23kghage-
    11/28/2016 - 09:28 a.m.

    Why is it so important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks.

    I think it is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks so people can learn about Rosa, and be taught that some things are necessary to have another good thing come out of it. I think that it is very cool that Rosa kept her seat on the bus so that people can know that she is somebody. I wish that all people, all over the world would have the heart of Rosa Parks.

  • 23bjsand-
    11/28/2016 - 09:30 a.m.

    It is important to explore Rosa's records because, she was the only African American to stand up to a white. She also never gave up her seat to a white. It is also important because is in a Museum, So people should not be out ruled by someone else. You should also be thankful for living in a free country. She also followed Martin Lutheran King Jr. speech.

    • domonicb-mac
      1/05/2017 - 08:11 a.m.

      it was important to look at her records to see if she has been arrested by any other cops but sense the hasn't the gave her a warning

  • sharona-bur
    11/28/2016 - 10:14 a.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest of Rosa Parks because, Park's act of defiance inspired Montgomery Bus Boycott.

  • princessf-bur
    11/28/2016 - 10:21 a.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks because what if she wants a job or wants a house the people would have to look at her records or credit.

  • jobg-bur
    11/28/2016 - 10:21 a.m.

    Rosa parks was a great woman. when she got arrested because when she make the world to be with blacks with whites everybody was happy she made a good speech if she was not here black and whites would not be together from this point.

  • vanessao-bur
    11/28/2016 - 10:23 a.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks because if you were writing a biography on Rosa Parks, you would use the arrest records to use more detail when she was arrested.

  • katerinev-bur
    11/28/2016 - 10:23 a.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks because what if she wants a house or a job they have to check her records and credit.

  • christophero-har
    11/28/2016 - 10:48 a.m.

    The thing that is important to explore in Rosa parks arrest records is the reasoning for her arrests and when they happened. To collect more and more pieces to put together her story for everyone to see and understand also it shows a valuable piece of a bad time in American history and how in depth it could really go.

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