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Exhibition Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words

Early Life and Activism

“Is it worth while to reveal the intimacies of the past life? Would the people be sympathetic or disillusioned when the facts of my life are told?”

Rosa Louise McCauley was born and reared in Alabama during the Jim Crow era, when state laws mandated the separation of the races in practically all aspects of everyday life and disenfranchised black voters. The Ku Klux Klan, often complicit with local governments, engaged in frequent lynchings, beatings, and burnings to enforce the racial order. Rosa was determined “never to accept [Jim Crow], even if it must be endured.” In 1932 she married Raymond Parks, a barber and charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branch, in Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa and Raymond had similar personalities and shared an interest in racial politics. They were early activists in the celebrated Scottsboro case and the Voters League in Montgomery. In 1943, she became the secretary of the Montgomery NAACP and, in 1949, its youth adviser. Under the leadership of Rosa Parks and E. D. Nixon the branch focused on voter registration and cases of racial discrimination and violence.