Rosa Parks' decision to sit through something wrong, inspired a community to stand for something right. A story that proves the power of symbolism.
- Overcoming the MonsterQuest
Last updated: June 13, 2023
Lean Story Canvas
Montgomery Improvement Association. Formed in the days following the December 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks, to oversee the Montgomery bus boycott. The organisation would play a leading role in fighting segregation in the city and produce some of the civil rights movement's most well-known figures. Within it, Rosa Parks, a quiet and respectable woman who believed in the fundamental power of speaking back, and an organising activist since 1943.
White supremacists in power. Institutionalised everyday racism and its physical, psychological, economic, societal and cultural impacts. Unfair trials and no justice for black communities.
Desegregation of buses. The bus boycott lasted a total of 382 days. It ended in December 1956 after bus companies throughout Alabama were forced to comply with a US Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public transport was illegal.
Call to Adventure
Rosa Parks' refusal to get up from her seat and her subsequent arrest that triggered change in the form of a wider boycott and legal challenge.
Crossing the Threshold
Taking action by boycotting buses.
Three difficult but confidence-building hurdles to be overcome
- Rosa Parks' court case that created the opportunity to challenge the segregation law.
- Encouraging others to boycott buses. A panicked press helped spread the word so the majority of Montgomery's black community boycotted buses on the first day of Rosa's court case.
- Browder v. Gayle (1956). A case heard before a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on Montgomery and Alabama state bus segregation laws.
Allies and Gifts
Bus Boycotters including Jo Ann Robinson, Viola White, Hilliard Brooks, Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks. The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), The Woman’s Political Council.
Mentors and Gifts
Local pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was at the time an ally who later became a mentor, particularly to the next generation of activists.
Members of the MONTGOMERY improvement association.
Black and white buses
Rosa's Refusal and Arrest
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr
Rosa’s court case
Boycott, boycott, boycott!
The Pivotal court case
Call to adventure.
Crossing the threshold.
Mentor, allies and gifts.
The symbolic story, persistent mythology and iconic status of Rosa Parks is a powerful reminder of the shortcuts we need to be able to hear, learn and share some of the most important lessons about change in our societies. The more nuanced and deeper layers of truth about how and why Rosa Parks’ arrest helped provide sustained fuel for boycotters, new allies, and a tangible villain of the unjust segregation laws, also reveals what it takes to be the right person, in the right place at the right time, with the right story.