Monday, October 31, 2005

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, who passed away at 92 this week, lies in state in the Capitol Rotunda tonight. She is the first woman to be so honored.

Mrs. Parks changed the history of our nation forever when she took one deceptively small action: she refused to give up her seat to a white person on a public bus, in a community that required her to do so only because she was African American.

The year was 1955. In 1954, the Supreme Court had put an end to the constitutionality of “separate but equal,” but Brown v. Board of Education remained a victory in name only. Mrs. Parks gave substantial force to its edict not simply by keeping her seat, but by demanding recognition of her irreducible dignity as a perfectly equal human being. Her courage in the face of a hostile community and an unknowable future sparked movements for social justice all over the world.

Rosa Parks’ patriotism, her moral force, and her clarity of vision galvanized a nation. May we never forget that her mission now passes, yet unfinished, to us.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.
--Langston Hughes


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