American heroin Rosa Lee Parks has passed of natural causes at the age of 92. The internationally
lauded African-American seamstress refused to give up her bus seat to a
white man in 1955's Jim Crow dominated Montgomery, Alabama and, in
doing so, helped ignite the modern civil rights movement.
Parks was repeatedly in the news in the past few years as a part of a lawsuit against Atlanta hip-hop duo Outkast for
their use of her name in the radio hit "Rosa Parks."
Shirley Kaigler, Parks' lawyer, said she died while taking a nap
early on Monday evening surrounded by a small group of friends and
"She just fell asleep and didn't wake up," Kaigler said.
Kaigler said Parks was at home in an apartment
complex overlooking the Detroit River and the border with Ontario,
Canada, when she died.
Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in a statement: "The
nation lost a courageous woman and a true American hero. A half century
ago, Rosa Parks stood up not only for herself, but for generations upon
generations of Americans."
"She lived in the neighbourhood that I
grew up in," Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said of Parks, who lived in
the predominantly black city for decades and had a major thoroughfare
named after her.
"Everybody knew where her house was. Everybody
would walk past and point her out," said Kilpatrick. "She was an
"Just by a simple act of sitting down she stood up for so many people," Kilpatrick said.
Due to the fact she
was suffering from progressive dementia she rarely was seen in public
in recent years. The parties suing on her behalf finally won
the suit partially due to Outkast's (they'd eventually been droppped
from the suit) label's willingness to give her monetary compensation
out of respect. As of press it is not known how, or if, the money
enhanced her life, as she was living on Social Security and previously unable to
afford her rent.
The same day Parks refused to stand up, Alabama's black community began the historical boycott of the bus system, led by a then-unknown Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
boycott lasted 381 days, and the legal challenges led to a U.S. Supreme
Court decision that forced Montgomery to desegregate its bus system and
put an end to "Jim Crow" laws separating blacks and whites at public
facilities throughout the South.
Parks and her husband, Raymond,
moved to Detroit in 1957, after she lost her job and received numerous
death threats in Alabama. From 1965 to 1988, she worked as an aide to
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and founding member of the
Congressional Black Caucus.
Her husband died in 1977. The couple
had no children and Parks' closest living relatives are her brother's
13 sons and daughters.
Parks received the highest U.S. civilian
honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1996 and Congressional
Gold Medal of Honour in 1999. Recommending the medal for Parks that
year, the U.S. Senate described her as "a living icon for freedom in