Showing Moral Courage: Rosa Parks

By | December 1, 2020

[December 1, 2020]  Sixty-five years ago, the moral courage of Rosa Parks, a visionary for Civil Rights, helped write racial equality into the mind of all Americans.  On this date in 1955, coming home from work, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person.  For that reason, she was arrested for Civil Disobedience.

Parks’ act of defiance became the most well-known public symbol for equal racial rights in America and an international icon of resistance to racial segregation.

Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system.  It also lead to a 1956 U.S. Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation based on the 14th Amendment.  She married Raymond Parks, who encouraged her to earn her high school diploma.  Both she and her husband were active in the NAACP.1

“Stand for something, or you will fall for anything. Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.” –  Rosa Parks

 Parks was not the first person to resist bus segregation, but the NAACP believed she was the best candidate for seeing through a court challenge after the arrest.2  Her prominence in the community and her willingness to become a controversial figure inspired the black community to be part of the post-war civil rights movement’s first major direct action campaign.

Parks’ suffered for her act of defiance, and that is the point of highlighting her for her moral courage.  She was fired from her seamstress job at a local department store.  In addition, Parks received death threats.  She acted as a private citizen in her lawsuit, she said, because she was “tired of giving in.”  In her later years, before she passed away in 2005, she was active in the Black Power movement.

After her retirement, Parks wrote her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story (1999), where she describes her work in the Civil Rights movement.  The book is a moving account of what she saw growing up in post-WWI America and her experiences leading up to her famous ride on the Montgomery bus.

Being an active member of any organization or movement means being strong, intellectually flexible, and have a tough skin.  She always spoke from her heart and brain.  That is what makes Rosa Parks different and still deserving for her moral act on that day 65 years ago.


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

23 thoughts on “Showing Moral Courage: Rosa Parks

  1. Kenny Foster

    Follow the law. ….. but sometimes you can’t follow the law because the law is unjust. She did what was right, not what was lawful. Now the law is changed.

    1. Janna Faulkner

      Yes, good point that we should all have the moral courage to practice when needed.

  2. Albert Ayer

    Rosa Parks is truly an icon. She may have never had the intent to see this bus incident to go as far as it did, BUT she was ready to not back down. That is why she deserves both her fame and the devotion of so many of us who believed in her.

  3. Greg Heyman

    Parks recalled: “I did not want to be mistreated, I did not want to be deprived of a seat that I had paid for. It was just time … there was opportunity for me to take a stand to express the way I felt about being treated in that manner. I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.”

      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Thanks Greg for the reference. That is one thing I like about this forum in that I can find references so easily in the comments section or ask for some research and others will help out. I agree with Gen. Satterfield that Ms Parks was a great woman at the right place at the right time and in the right circumstance. For her, it certainly did not appear to be so at the time.

    1. Jerome Smith

      Yes, welcome Mr. Longstreet. This forum is a great place to discuss ideas, ask for assistance on ferreting out new ideas and throwing your thinking onto the intellectual wall, like mud. If your ideas stick, we can help flush them out and add to your thoughts. If we achieve that, we are all better people for it. Again, welcome. You will be treated well here.

  4. Yusaf from Texas

    Excellent article and timely. Gen. Satterfield, we all appreciate this series on moral courage. I used the search function to find more of them and read many. Keep it up. Oh, and thanks for having today’s moral courage series on Rosa Parks.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      Yes, that is why so many of us keep coming back to this website on leadership! Gen. Satterfield is doing us all a favor and providing an outlet to discuss ideas.

  5. Randy Goodman

    ROSA PARKS is indeed the icon of the civil rights movement when racial discrimination was written into law. That has not been the case for at least 50 plus years now. Good. Those old laws showed how terrible man can be to man.

  6. Judy Mansfield

    Hi, I’m new to this blog but just wanted to comment (for the first time) about how great it is to read a balanced leadership website for a change. Thank the person who runs it and for those who give such positive comments and helpful hints and research links.

    1. Eric Coda

      Welcome aboard to Gen. Satterfield’s leadership place where you can comment and not worry about being attacked from any corner of the ideological spectrum. 😊 You will find it comforting to know that we police ourselves and yet keep all ideas up and out front. If it is a bad idea, we say so and why without personal attacks.

      1. Judy Mansfield

        Thank you for responding. I also like the Rosa Parks quote. It tells us something about her that is important and that is that she had a religious background and used that as part of her staunch personality.

    2. Forrest Gump

      Yes, welcome Judy. Good to have new blood to help sow new, creative ideas.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    Perfect! The right person for the right award of “Moral Courage.”

    1. Max Foster

      Of course, Parks participated in activism nationally during the mid-1960s, traveling to support the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches, the Freedom Now Party, and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. She also befriended Malcolm X, who she regarded as a personal hero. She was also active with the Black Panthers (often described as a domestic terrorist organization). Perhaps she saw something the rest of us cannot see.

      1. Mikka Solarno

        Yes, she was very active in civil rights events up until her death. She was a moral person, however, and even if we disagree with some of her causes, she was an honest and religious person to be respected.


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