Today marks the 100th birthday of an extraordinary American activist: Rosa Parks (1913–2005), who became an inspiring, iconic figure of the civil rights movement with one quiet act of courage. We are extremely proud today to issue a new Forever® stamp in her honor.
On the evening of Thursday, December 1, 1955, after working all day, Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man. Discriminatory laws in effect at that time required black passengers to sit in the rear section of the bus and to surrender their seats to white passengers on demand.
From an early age, Rosa Louise McCauley (her name before her marriage to Raymond Parks) was conscious of the injustice she saw around her. She was educated in a segregated system, attending a rural schoolhouse in Alabama in her early years and eventually receiving her high school diploma shortly after her marriage.
Recalling her early life in My Story (1992), an autobiography intended for young readers, Parks wrote: “At times I felt overwhelmed by all the violence and hatred, but there was nothing to do but keep going.”
After her arrest for refusing to give up her seat, blacks boycotted Montgomery’s bus system. The boycott lasted for 381 days and thrust a young local pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr., into the spotlight.
On November 13, 1956, in a related case, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that segregating Montgomery buses was unconstitutional. The boycott continued for several weeks more until the written order mandating integrated buses arrived. The next day, December 21, more than a year after the boycott began, black citizens began to ride the Montgomery buses again.
The Rosa Parks stamp is being issued as a Forever® stamp in sheets of 20 self-adhesive stamps. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) It is the second of three stamps we will issue in 2013 to commemorate landmark anniversaries in civil rights history. Watch as Deputy Postmaster General Ronald Stroman introduces the stamps and gives an inspiring account of the U.S. Postal Service’s long history of offering African Americans opportunities not found elsewhere.
“It’s a story we’re proud to tell,” he says, “and a journey we’re eager to continue, together.”