By Karen Gochnauer
What would you do if some day, a policeman
stopped you and asked you if you had your birth certificate with
you? Most of us don't regularly carry it with us, but if you didn't,
the policeman would throw you in jail!
A young African American woman living
in the 1950s had to deal with these crazy laws every day of her
life. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was one of the thousands of brave
African American people who helped to overcome the barriers of
whites and blacks. I'll discuss and explain some of the obstacles
she overcame, who opposed and helped Rosa, and some of the goals
she reached for the African American society.
To begin with, Rosa Parks, a soon-to-be
Civil Rights Activist and spokeswoman, had many oppositions. Blocks
came from every angle as the "white class" and barriers from the
government attempted to keep Rosa and her people "under control."
The same government that had given Rosa rights as a citizen of
America was passing laws saying things like, that it was all right
for restaurants not to serve people that were black. The government
was denying Rosa and the people like her of the same rights that
you and I have naturally. And no one really cared or considered
Mrs. Parks was one of the brave people
who took a step in the right direction by standing up for what
she knew was right. In 1955, Rosa boarded a bus for home, feeling
very tired and emotionally drained from the segregation and mistreatment
of African Americans. "I did not get on the bus to be arrested,"
Rosa said. "I got on the bus to go home." Mrs. Parks refused to
give up her seat for a white man and move to a section for "Blacks"
at the back of the bus, so the bus driver ordered her off the
bus and had her arrested.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said this after
Rosa's arrest. "If we are wrong, justice is a lie. And we are
determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice
runs down like water." Rosa's trial lasted half an hour, she was
found guilty, but there was no sentence.
Secondly, I'd like to point out that
no matter how hard you work at something, there are always people
who will, or want to, get in your way, and there will be people
who will want to help you along. The driver that had her arrested
was not one that unfamiliar with troubling Rosa. He was, in fact,
the same one that, 12 years earlier, had put her off a bus because
she would not get off the bus and reboard through the "Black"
Rosa says that her belief in God is
at the core of everything she does. She gets comfort in His strength.
Some of her other supporters, however, are quite human. The Women's
Political Council passed out handbills that read "We are asking
every Negro to stay off the buses Monday in protest of the arrest
and trial of Rosa Parks. Please, children and grown-ups, don't
ride the bus at all on Monday." That was the day that Rosa was
scheduled to appear in court. That evening, there was a meeting
attended by Rosa at Holt Street Baptist Church, and Rev. Martin
Luther King, Jr. was the speaker. When he was finished, Mrs. Parks
stood up among the crowd, and was silent. There was no need to
talk. Her quiet message was, "Here I am, among you." Rosa's ultimate
bravery inspired many later "stirrings of America's great, segregated,
My last point is the most important
of all. Rosa reached many goals and helped to break numerous barriers
for the African American community. She helped to put just one
more big crack in the wall of segregation. Soon after, that wall
came down. Rosa inspired and lighted fires of hope for a better
future in the hearts of the surrounding African American population.
Other people, like Claudette Colvin,
age 15, would not give up her seat and was arrested eight months
before. Also, Mary Louis Smith was arrested in October for the
same "crime". These women, including Rosa, believed in standing
for the right reason, and it definitely paid off. In 1996, Rosa
received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Also, in 1999, she
received the Congressional Gold Medal. All people who speak out
against injustices everywhere deserve a great place in history.
In ending, I need to say, we have to
warn the coming generations what a terrible thing racism can do
to a healthy country. It can tear it apart! This occurrence in
history has shown the American people what it really can do to
great and envied countries. Racism can change and greatly damage
How would you react if someone looked
down on you as if you were a creature lower than dirt? What would
you say to someone if they said that you couldn't even walk on
the same side of the street as someone who had a different color
of hair? The next time you see someone who is not like you, take
a second glance; think about the real "them."
Karen Gochnauer is a student in Mrs.
Chamberlin's 7th grade ACE Language Arts Class Bernard Campbell
Junior High Lee's Summit, Missouri.