With the transit company and downtown businesses suffering financial loss and the legal system ruling against them, the city of Montgomery had no choice but to lift its enforcement of segregation on public buses, and the boycott officially ended on December 20, 1956. The combination of legal action, backed by the unrelenting determination of the African American community, made the Montgomery Bus Boycott one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history.
Life After the Bus Boycott
Although she had become a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement, Parks suffered hardship in the months following her arrest in Montgomery and the subsequent boycott. She lost her department store job and her husband was fired after his boss forbade him to talk about his wife or their legal case.
Unable to find work, they eventually left Montgomery and moved to Detroit, Michigan along with Parks’ mother. There, Parks made a new life for herself, working as a secretary and receptionist in U.S. Representative John Conyer’s congressional office. She also served on the board of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
In 1987, with longtime friend Elaine Eason Steele, Parks founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. The organization runs “Pathways to Freedom” bus tours, introducing young people to important civil rights and Underground Railroad sites throughout the country.
READ MORE: Rosa Parks’ Life After the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Autobiography and Memoir
In 1992, Parks published Rosa Parks: My Story, an autobiography recounting her life in the segregated South. In 1995, she published Quiet Strength, which includes her memoirs and focuses on the role that religious faith played throughout her life.
In 1999, Parks filed a lawsuit against the group and its label alleging defamation and false advertising because Outkast used Parks’ name without her permission. Outkast said the song was protected by the First Amendment and did not violate Parks’ publicity rights.
In 2003, a judge dismissed the defamation claims. Parks’ lawyer soon refiled based on the false advertising claims for using her name without permission, seeking over $5 billion.
On April 14, 2005, the case was settled. Outkast and co-defendants SONY BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records LLC and LaFace Records admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute to develop educational programs that “enlighten today’s youth about the significant role Rosa Parks played in making America a better place for all races,” according to a statement released at the time.
On October 24, 2005, Parks quietly died in her apartment in Detroit, Michigan at the age of 92. She had been diagnosed the previous year with progressive dementia, which she had been suffering from since at least 2002.
Parks’ death was marked by several memorial services, among them, lying in honor at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., where an estimated 50,000 people viewed her casket. She was interred between her husband and mother at Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery, in the chapel’s mausoleum. Shortly after her death, the chapel was renamed the Rosa L. Parks Freedom Chapel.
Accomplishments and Awards
Parks received many accolades during her lifetime, including the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest award, and the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Award.
On September 15, 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Parks the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor given by the United States’ executive branch. The following year, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award given by the U.S. legislative branch.
TIME magazine named Parks on its 1999 list of “The 20 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.”