“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. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in…. When I declined to give up my seat, it was not that day or bus in particular. I just wanted to be free, like everybody else.” – Rosa Parks.
It was an unintentional protest. Around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery, Rosa Parks paid her fare and sat in an empty seat reserved for blacks. As white-only seats in the bus filled up, the bus driver demanded that she gave her seat up. When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. Two hours after her arrest, she was released on $100 bail. By midnight, a plan had been hatched for a citywide bus boycott, which a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King Jr. would later be elected to direct. The boycott lasted 381 days, until the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was illegal; its success ignited the modern civil rights movement.
The next year, United Press International staged a photo-op of Mrs. Parks sitting in front of a white man on a different bus. It was a UPI journalist Nicholas Chriss who posed as the hard-eyed white man behind Parks. It was taken on Dec. 21, 1956, the day after the United States Supreme Court ruled Montgomery’s segregated bus system illegal. Other famous photos of Parks, a mug shot and a picture of her being fingerprinted, don’t date to Dec. 1, 1955, either. They were taken on Feb. 22, 1956, after about 100 black Montgomery residents were indicted on charges that they violated a local antiboycott statute. (Via Iconic Photos)