Follow the accomplishments of civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and learn how her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus helped end public segregation, at Biography.com. View photos and video, and read Parks's full biography.
In 1944, athletic star Jackie Robinson took a similar stand in a confrontation with a United States Army officer in Fort Hood, Texas, by refusing to move to the back of a bus. Robinson was brought before a court-martial, which acquitted him. The NAACP had accepted and litigated other cases, including that of Irene Morgan 10 years earlier, which resulted in a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court on Commerce Clause grounds. That victory, however, overturned state segregation laws only insofar as they applied to travel in interstate commerce, such as interstate bus travel, and Southern bus companies immediately circumvented the Morgan ruling by instituting their own Jim Crow regulations. In November 1955, just three weeks before Parks' defiance of Jim Crow laws in Montgomery, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in response to a complaint filed by WAC Sarah Keys, closed the legal loophole left by the Morgan ruling in a landmark case known as Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. The ICC prohibited individual carriers from imposing their own segregation rules on interstate travelers, declaring that to do so was a violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Interstate Commerce Act. But neither the Supreme Court's Morgan ruling nor the ICC's Keys ruling addressed the matter of Jim Crow travel within the individual states.
Black activists had begun to build a case to challenge state bus segregation laws around the arrest of a 15-year-old girl, Claudette Colvin, a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Montgomery. On March 2, 1955, Colvin was handcuffed, arrested and forcibly removed from a public bus when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. At the time, Colvin was an active member in the NAACP Youth Council, a group to which Rosa Parks served as Advisor.
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