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Learning English - Words in the News
26 October, 2005 - Published 11:11 GMT
Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks dies
Rosa Lee Parks being fingerprinted by the police

Rosa Lee Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man started the US civil rights movement in the mid 1950s, has died at the age of ninety-two. Her cause was supported by a little known Reverend, Martin Luther King Jnr. This report from Laura Trevelyan:

Listen to the story

Rosa Lee Parks was forty-two years old when she made history. She was sitting on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, one day in 1955 when a white man demanded her seat. Mrs Parks refused, defying the rules which required blacks to give up their seats to whites. She was arrested and fined. Her treatment triggered a three hundred and eighty one day boycott of the bus system, organised by the Reverend Martin Luther King Junior. The Montgomery bus boycott marked the birth of the civil rights movement. Seven years later, Rosa Parks recalled that momentous day:

"The driver said that if I refused to leave the seat, he would have to call the police and I told him just call the police, which he did and when they came, they placed me under arrest."

"Wasn't that a pretty frightening thing, to be arrested in Montgomery, Alabama?"

"No, I wasn't afraid at all."

"You weren't frightened, why weren't you frightened?"

"I don't know why I wasn't, but I didn't feel afraid. I had decided that I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and a citizen, even in Montgomery, Alabama."

Her public stance made her a symbol of the civil rights movement, but it also made it hard for her to get work in Alabama. She and her husband, Raymond, moved to Detroit, where she worked as an aide in a Democratic Congressman's office. Upon her retirement, Mrs Parks devoted her time to an institute she and her husband founded, aimed at developing leadership among young people. Rosa Parks will be remembered for the way her quiet determination in the face of injustice helped change America.

Laura Trevelyan, BBC, New York

Listen to the words

defying the rules
deliberately breaking the law

made to pay some money as a punishment

caused something to happen, started

boycott of the bus system
a period when people decided not to use the buses as a form of protest

marked the birth of
was the beginning of

the civil rights movement
the struggle for freedom and equality for racial minorities in the United States

recalled that momentous day
remembered that important and historical day

Her public stance
The actions that she took in public

a symbol of the civil rights movement
something that represented the struggle for equality

an aide
an assistant

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