Born in Alabama in 1913, Mrs. Parks grew up on a farm just outside Montgomery in a town called Pine Level. She was home-schooled until she was 11. She later attended the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery. She briefly attended the Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes (now called Alabama State University), but had to drop out to take care of her mother and grandmother when they became ill.
Mrs. Parks married Raymond Parks in 1932. He encouraged her to finish her education. This was very uncommon at this time, especially for a woman. Less than 7 percent of African-Americans had a high school diploma in the 1930s.
Mrs. Parks also succeeded in registering to vote, which was very difficult for blacks under segregation laws. In 1943, she began working as a secretary for the NAACPNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Mrs. Parks made her historic decision on December 1, 1955. She recalls in her autobiography:
"When [the driver] saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.' "
Mrs. Parks died on October 24, 2005. "She sat down in order that we might stand up," said civil rights leader Jesse Jackson. "Her imprisonment opened the doors for our long journey to freedom."