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Rosa Parks - Black History Month

Themes: Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005); Black History Month; Civil Rights; justice and equality.

Summary: On 1 December 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, contravening local laws. Parks' actions made her a figurehead of the Civil Rights movement and an inspiration to those fighting for justice and equality.

Resources: this assembly uses a gallery slide show and a video clip. Pause the slide show at the point indicated to play the video clip.

Key links

The video:

The video clip is a dramatisation of Rosa Parks' bus journey on 1 December 1955 in the town of Montgomery, Alabama. Parks was making her usual journey returning home from work when she was asked to give up her seat in the section of the bus reserved for black passengers by a white passenger who had boarded and could not find space in the section reserved for whites. Parks refused to give up her seat and was later arrested and charged.

Parks recalled in her autobiography that it had been said she refused to get up 'because she was tired' but that in reality the only tiredness she had felt was being 'tired of giving in'. The dramatisation ends at the moment of her arrest.

Duration: 3' 19"

End of speech: '...we didn't know what to do about it.'

Video questions

What was the date Rosa Parks describes in the video?

1st December 1955

Where was Rosa Parks travelling?

She was returning home after work - looking forward to taking her shoes off and rubbing her feet

Where did Rosa Parks sit on the bus?

In the seats allocated to black people, behind those for white people

What happened after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat?

First the bus driver asked her to move, then the police arrived and arrested her

What reason did some people give for Rosa Parks' refusal to move?

That she was tired

What does Rosa Parks say she was tired of?

She says she was tired of 'giving in'

Suggested framework

Content Guidance
1. Entry music Play your chosen music. You might consider 'We shall overcome' or music from the Southern States of America or a blues track. Dispay the first image from the gallery (see 'Key links' above).
2. Introduction The assembly takes the form of a slide show with text, with a pause after Image 6 to play the video clip. The suggested text is as follows. IMAGE 1: America in the 1950s… A land of great wealth…opportunity…freedom… But not for everyone. Because black people living in America at that time were often treated very differently to white people. In many parts of America they were kept apart – they were SEGREGATED. Black people couldn’t go to the same schools as white people… IMAGE 2: Couldn’t sit in the same cinemas… IMAGE 3: Couldn’t drink from the same water fountains… IMAGE 4: Couldn’t even sit in the same place on a bus… IMAGE 5: Many people – both black and white – knew that segregation wasn’t fair and they protested about it…but little changed. IMAGE 6: Then, one day in 1955, a woman called ROSA PARKS boarded a bus after work, in a city called Montgomery. What you’ll see now is an actress being Rosa, to tell us what happened on that extraordinary bus journey…
3. The video At this point you have the option to pause the slide show to play the video. The duration is 3' 19" and the final words are: '...just didn't know what to do about it.'
4. After the video Continue with the final images of the gallery slide show. The suggested text is as follows. IMAGE 7: Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus - and charged with breaking the law. IMAGE 8: But people came to her support - first in Montgomery where she lived…and then all over America. Marches were organised to protest against segregation…marches that grew in to what became known as the Civil Rights Movement - a movement that demanded the same rights for all people. IMAGE 9: Rosa Parks became an important figurehead of that movement…because her simple act of defiance inspired others to take a stand against unfairness as well. IMAGE 10: The world is a very different place today…but there are still many things that are unfair. If you experience unfairness and wonder what to do, perhaps you - like many others - will remember the story of Rosa Parks and a famous bus journey made long ago…
5. Time to talk After the gallery slide show you could use the video questions to aid recall of the events. Pupils could turn to a partner to discuss what strikes them as extraordinary about Rosa Parks' story; what words would they use to describe her and her actions; what do they feel we can all learn from Rosa Parks' story?
6. Opportunity to sing If your assembly is to include a song this would be a good time to include it. Suggestions from BBC collections below.
7. Opportunity for reflection 'We’ve heard today about an extraordinary woman - Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks didn’t know that the 1st of December 1955 was going to be different to any other day…but on that day she decided the time had come…the time to take a stand against the unfairness that she saw around her… Think about a time when you’ve experienced things that seem unfair… How did you feel and what did you do..? Did you have the courage to say anything..? Sometimes it can be difficult to speak out against unfairness…but sometimes all it takes is a single courageous voice to begin to put things right again…'
8. Opportunity for prayer Use your usual form of address ('Dear God', 'Lord Jesus' etc) and: 'Thank you for those people, like Rosa Parks, who have the courage to take a stand. Help each of us to take a stand when we see things around us that are unfair... So that together we can work for a better world.'

Suggested songs

Title Collection Significant words
'You've got to move' Come and Praise, no 107 'You've got to move when the spirit says move'
'Together' All about our school, no 14 '...together, we can work it out together...'