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Rosa Lee Parks, 'Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,' Passes at 92   Print 
Monday, 24 October 2005

usherAmerican 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 family members.

"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.

Sen. 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 amazing individual."

"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.

The 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 America."

 

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