For the shortest month of the year, February is chock full of important holidays and observances, including lovey-dovey Valentine's Day and patriotic President's Day. Of course, February is also notable as Black History Month, when we shine a spotlight on more than 400 years of extraordinary achievements and sacrifices made by Black Americans. It's an especially great time to watch movies and read books themed around Black culture and history, and share wise words from Black leaders—specifically Rosa Parks quotes. Each February 4, on her birthday, we honor the "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" with Rosa Parks Day, celebrating her remarkable bravery and determination, which helped change the course of American history.
On December 1, 1955, the 42-year-old Parks, who was headed home from her job as a seamstress at a Montgomery, Alabama, department store, was ordered to give up her bus seat to a white man. When she refused, she was arrested for breaking the city's racial segregation laws, jailed, and eventually convicted of disorderly conduct. Both she and her husband later lost their jobs, but her courageous act of civil disobedience sparked the now-legendary Montgomery Bus Boycott, a 381-day non-violent protest by the Black community led by Martin Luther King, Jr. By late 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.
Parks continued working for social justice throughout the course of her long life, authoring two memoirs, receiving two dozen honorary university doctorates, and winning both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and then the Congressional Gold Medal. When she died on October 24, 2005, at 92, she became the first woman to lay in honor in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. Today, her powerful words, echoing with her trademark tenacity and conviction, continue to inspire new generations of Americans to never give up the fight for freedom and equality for all.
"Stand for something or you will fall for anything. Today's mighty oak is yesterday's nut that held its ground."
"Each person must live their life as a model for others."
"I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."
"There were times when it would have been easy to fall apart or to go in the opposite direction, but somehow I felt that if I took one more step, someone would come along to join me."
"I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people."
"You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right."
"I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom."
"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."
"Differences of race, nationality or religion should not be used to deny any human being citizenship rights or privileges. Life is to be lived to its fullest so that death is just another chapter. Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others."
"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...the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."
"There is just so much hurt, disappointment, and oppression one can take...The line between reason and madness grows thinner."
"Whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone. There were many others who felt the same way."
"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 any such thing as complete happiness."
"It takes more than one person to bring about peace—it takes all of us."
"As far back as I can remember, I knew there was something wrong with our way of life when people could be mistreated because of the color of their skin."
"The only way for prejudiced people to change is for them to decide for themselves that all human beings should be treated fairly. We can't force them to think that way."
"We must have courage—determination—to go on with the task of becoming free—not only for ourselves, but for the nation and the world...”
"Our freedom is threatened every time one of our young people is killed by another child…every time a person gets stopped and beaten by the police because of the color of their skin."
"...I was a person with dignity and self-respect, and I should not set my sights lower than anybody else just because I was black."
"I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear."
"It is better to teach or live equality and love...than to have hatred and prejudice."
"As long as people use tactics to oppress or restrict other people from being free, there is work to be done."
"From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for rights just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh."
"To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try."
"I am leaving this legacy to all of you...to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die—the dream of freedom and peace."
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