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This essay discusses one of the most famous moments in the history of the American civil rights movement, the refusal by Rosa Parks to “move to the back of the bus” on December 1, 1955. Although, as Adams states, her moment of protest was not a planned event , it certainly proved to be a momentous one. Four days later, on December 5, the Montgomery bus boycott began. It was, as Reed notes, to last 381 days, and it ended on December 21, 1956 when the United States Supreme Court declared bus segregation unconstitutional.
Rosa Parks, a small, frail woman, became an icon of the civil rights movement. The nature of Rosa Parks protest, the response of the authorities of Montgomery, the tactics adopted by the civil rights leaders in Montgomery, and the role eventually played by Federal authority, were all aspects of this particular situation that were to be repeated again and again in the struggle for equality of race. Rosa Parks’ action, and the complex combination of events that followed, in some measure, foreshadowed a great deal of the history of the civil rights movement over the next decade.