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An Act of Protest: Rosa Parks in Her Own Words

How the ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement’ remembered her refusal to give up her bus seat 60 years ago

  • A photo and a hand written page that is part of a Rosa Parks archive
    Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

    Rosa Parks — 60th Anniversary

    En español | Since that infamous bus ride on Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks’ story has been told many times, but rarely in her own words. Here are quotes from Parks throughout the years that speak to the event.

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  • Civil rights legend Rosa Parks was arrested aboard this Montgomery, Alabama, bus which is now at the The Henry Ford Museum
    Courtesy The Henry Ford Museum

    A Way of Life

    “I'd see the bus pass every day ... But to me, that was a way of life; we had no choice but to accept what was the custom. The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.”

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  • Rosa Parks sitting on the bus
    Underwood Archives/Getty Images

    A Seamstress by Trade

    “I did not get on the bus to get arrested. I got on the bus to go home.”

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  • Rosa Parks book: My Story
    Dial Books

    No More Tired Than Usual

    “People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was 42. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

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  • Mrs Rosa Parks, a seamstress, being fingerprinted after her refusal to move to the back of a bus to accommodate a white passenger touched off the bus boycott, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956.
    Underwood Archives/Getty Images

    I Had No Idea

    “At the time I was arrested, I had no idea it would turn into this. It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.”

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  • Rosa Parks mug shot
    Getty Images

    It Was Just Time

    “I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time ... there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner.”

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  • Rev. Martin Luther King outlines boycott strategies to his advisers & organizers incl. (seated L-R) Rev. Ralph Abernathy & Rosa Parks who was the catalyst for the protest of bus riders
    Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

    A Matter of Survival

    “We didn't have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival, of existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl, hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.” (Rosa Parks, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Ralph Abernathy)

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  • Remember the past, help shape the future.
    Robert Deutschman

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  • Rosa Parks speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 15, 1969.
    Joe Holloway, Jr./AP

    That Next Step

    “Since I have always been a strong believer in God, I knew that he was with me, and only he could get me through that next step.”  (Rosa Parks speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., 1969)

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  • Civil rights leader Rosa Parks smiles while people gathered around her applaud at a ceremony held in her honor at the House of the Lord Church, Brooklyn, New York.
    Angel Franco/New York Times Co./Getty Images

    Looking Forward to a Better Day

    “I do the very best I can to look upon life with optimism and hope and looking forward to a better day, but I don't think there is anything such as complete happiness. … I think when you say you're happy, you have everything that you need and everything that you want, and nothing more to wish for. I haven't reached that stage yet.” (Rosa Parks, the first black woman to be honored with a statue on Capitol Hill)

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  • Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, (R), of Detroit shows off the Wonder Woman Foundation's special 1984 Eleanor Roosevelt Woman of Courage Award presented to her on November 14, 1984. At left is actress Cicely Tyson who presented the award. Parks was honored for her work in the Civil Rights movement.

    It’s Up to Us

    “Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet and, hopefully, we shall overcome.” (Actress Cicely Tyson presenting Rosa Parks with the Eleanor Roosevelt Woman of Courage Award, 1984)

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  • President Bill Clinton gives Rosa Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 9/14/1996
    courtesy White House

    Justice and Prosperity for All

    “I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” (President Bill Clinton gives Rosa Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1996)

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  • AARP Baby Boomers (Sean McCabe)
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