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 of Montgomery, Alabama, was arrested. It was December 1, 1955. The 42-year-old seamstress was 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 is now known as the movement's so-called "mother."
 
Even now, as he looks over Parks' police report and fingerprints, Pretzer, a senior curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, is struck by the documents.
 
"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, through which Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged 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, when he helped Detroit's Henry Ford Museum, where he worked for more than 20 years, acquire the retired GM 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 (6)
  • emilyg1-bur
    11/28/2016 - 10:22 a.m.

    It is important to explore the arrest records of Rosa Parks because, to see how black people were treated back then. Or to see how the laws that African Americans had to follow.

  • jahir-orv
    11/28/2016 - 02:04 p.m.

    I think that the law system needs to change desperately. Because still the police officers are racist and brutal.

  • hcicily-dav
    12/08/2016 - 05:53 p.m.

    In response to, "Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement" I respectfully disagree with Pretzer. Pretzer was saying that "There is nothing that makes this event look extraordinary," which is not true. This was a very extraordinary and important event for a lot of people. People started standing up for their rights and started speaking out about everyone's rights being equal. Rosa Parks not giving up her seat to the white man started civil rights movement which was a huge part of history. In conclusion, I disagree with Pretzer and I think Rosa Parks standing up was a magnificent event because it caused many great things after that for many people.

  • wlauren-dav
    12/08/2016 - 08:02 p.m.

    Because we need evidence to back up what she was saying and to have why she did this great act and stood up for herself and so that we have this important part in history documented and we don't forget it.

  • mskyler-dav
    12/08/2016 - 08:27 p.m.

    In response to "Rosa Parks: The misdemeanor that sparked a movement," I agree that Rosa Park's did the right thing by refusing to get up and move to a different seat. One reason I agree is that it was and is not fair to discriminate by color or race. Another reason is that she started a boycott the got equal rights on the bus and in Montgomery, Alabama. It says in the article "History makers are those that sense the moment," he says." Pretzer is saying that Rosa Parks sensed the moment and went through with it. A third reason is that she was the first woman to fight for what was right. Even though she broke the city code of Montgomery, Alabama, I think that she will always be remembered for what she did not just in the African American community but, in the white community as well.

  • giavannac-orv
    1/11/2017 - 02:26 p.m.

    I think she was really brave to fight for her rights on the bus. Even when she got arrested many times for it.

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