Rosa Parks: An Extraordinary Life

Rosa Parks stampWhen Rosa Parks (1913–2005) refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man on December 1, 1955, it was no random act of courage. In a sense, her whole life had prepared her for what she did that day.

From an early age, Rosa Louise McCauley was conscious of the injustice she saw around her in the segregated South. As a young woman, she joined with her husband, Raymond Parks, whom she married in 1932, in the effort to free the “Scottsboro boys,” nine black youths who had been caught up in the discriminatory legal machinery then in place in Alabama. In 1943, she began working with the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), helping to transform the local branch into a more activist organization. That same year, she was forced off a Montgomery city bus for the first time under discriminatory laws requiring black passengers to sit in the rear section and to surrender their seats to white passengers on demand.

Rosa Parks Postmark

This First Day Cover bears an affixed Rosa Parks Forever® stamp and an official First Day of Issue pictorial postmark. Click the image for more information. (Rosa Parks’s name and image used under license with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.)

When the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, people working in the civil rights movement understood that the ruling held important implications for all kinds of segregation, including on the bus lines in Montgomery. The following summer, Parks attended an interracial workshop at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenneseee, learning, among other things, how to desegregate schools.

The workshop and her participation for many years with a community of civil rights activists served as sources of strength for the action she took on December 1, 1955.

Rosa Parks had the courage to act alone. But she knew she didn’t stand alone. She took heart from being part of a larger civil rights movement that opposed injustice and strove for equal rights for all in America.

The stamp honoring Rosa Parks is one of three stamps celebrating freedom, courage, and equality being issued in 2013. It is being issued as a Forever® stamp. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.)

Rosa Parks: Courage Personified

Rosa Parks (1913–2005) is often celebrated for her refusal to give up her seat on the bus to a white man on December 1, 1955. But the decision she made after her arrest—while not as well known—was equally courageous.

Rosa Parks sheet with die-cuts

Pay tribute to Rosa Parks with this 33 ¾ x 14 ½-inch press sheet, available with or without die-cuts. Each stamp sheet includes selvage markings denoting the printer and the ink colors used to print the stamps. Click the image for more info.

Seen through the eyes of her husband, Raymond Parks, Rosa was in grave danger every minute she remained in jail. Raymond was therefore elated when Rosa was released on bond thanks to the intervention of the president of the Montgomery branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and a white lawyer for whom Parks had worked.

That could have been the end of the trauma for the Parks family. But for some time the NAACP had been looking for a test case to challenge the city’s segregation ordinance. Other black women before Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to give up their seat on a Montgomery bus, but the NAACP judged that they could not withstand the relentless scrutiny to which such a public case would subject them.

Mrs. Rosa Parks gave them the perfect test case: “middle-aged, religious, of good character, known and respected in the community for her political work, and brave,” as her biographer Jeanne Theoharis writes in The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (2013).

Still, Mrs. Parks had to agree to undertake what promised to be an ordeal. Her husband tried to dissuade her. “The white folks will kill you, Rosa,” he warned her. Fully aware of the dangers ahead, she nevertheless decided that if it could “mean something to Montgomery and do some good, I’ll be happy to go along with it.”

That deliberate decision, as much as her earlier refusal to give up her seat on the bus, helped launch the Montgomery bus boycott and bring an end to legal segregation in the South.

Freedom, Courage, & Equality: Celebrating Civil Rights Milestones in 2013

For history lovers and stamp fans alike, the year 2013 should be a very special one. By a fortunate coincidence, there are three major civil rights anniversaries this year, each deserving of a stamp:

  • the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance on January 1, 1863, of the Emancipation Proclamation;
  • the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks on February 4, 1913;
  • the 50th anniversary of the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.

The words “Freedom,” “Courage,” and “Equality” appear in large type in the selvage of each respective pane of stamps honoring these civil rights milestones. Throughout 2013, we’re asking you, our readers, to engage in an online discussion of the meaning of these words—freedom, courage, equality—in your own life and in the life of the nation. What does each word mean to you?

Second in New Set of Civil Rights Stamps Commemorates Historic Act of Courage

On what would have been her 100th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service yesterday issued the Rosa Parks Forever® stamp during the National Day of Courage celebration at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan.

“Rosa Parks was the epitome of courage. Her single act of defiance changed a nation. Today, her legacy lives on for generations as we bestow upon her one of America’s highest honors,” said Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman. “Her quiet strength helped to change a nation. Let this stamp be a symbol of her courage and determination. And, let it remind us to never forget the indignities of days gone by—and to never stop fighting for the aspirations of generations yet unborn.”

Joining Stroman to dedicate the stamp were Patricia Mooradian, president, The Henry Ford; Carolyn House Stewart, international president, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; and the Spain School of Excellence Concert Choir.  Honored guests were Sen. Carl Levin, Reps. John Conyers and Gary Peters, civil rights activist Julian Bond, and Elaine Eason Steele, co-founder, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

The National Day of Courage was established to encourage all American to take a stand and commit themselves to do something courageous just as Parks did Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus. That singular act of courage helped spark the civil rights movement and a new era in the American quest for freedom and equality.

This First Day Cover bears an affixed stamp and an official First Day of Issue black pictorial postmark from the event in Dearborn. A Detroit version is also available. Click the image for details.

This First Day Cover bears an affixed stamp and an official First Day of Issue black pictorial postmark from the event in Dearborn. A Detroit version is also available. Click the image for details.

Earlier in the day, a special ceremony was held to preview the Rosa Parks stamp at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. In 1987, Parks co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit to inspire young people to behave in a socially responsible way.

To obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail, affix the Rosa Parks stamps to envelopes of your choice, address the envelopes (to yourself or others), and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

Rosa Parks Stamp
Postmaster
1401 W. Fort Street
Detroit, MI  48233-9998

Rosa Parks Stamp
Postmaster
3800 Greenfield Road
Dearborn, MI  48120-9998

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, USPS will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark. All orders must be postmarked by April 4, 2013.

The Rosa Parks Forever® stamp is now available in Post Offices nationwide, and can be purchased online or by phone at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724).

How has Rosa Parks’s act of courage inspired you?

Rosa Parks, Civil Rights Pioneer, To Be Honored With Stamp in 2013

Fifty-seven years ago this month, Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat at the front of the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery, Alabama. The response to her arrest was a boycott of Montgomery’s bus system that lasted 381 days and thrust a young local pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr., into the spotlight.

Parks-Forever-single-v3

In 2013, the U.S. Postal Service will honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks, an extraordinary American activist who became an iconic figure in the civil rights movement. The portrait that appears on the stamp (created by Thomas Blackshear II) emphasizes Parks’s quiet determination.

This First Day Cover is available for pre-order. Click image for info.

This First Day Cover is available for pre-order. Click image for info.

In addition to this stamp honoring Rosa Parks, USPS will issue two other stamps in 2013 to commemorate significant anniversaries in the struggle for African-American civil rights. One of them celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation; the other has not yet been revealed.

The Rosa Parks stamp will be issued as a Forever® stamp. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) A date of issue has not yet been set, but you can pre-order the stamp today!

Rosa Parks’s name and image used under license with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. 

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USPS has a tradition of honoring the nation’s civil rights leaders. In 2009, for example, we issued Civil Rights Pioneers, a sheet of 6 stamps celebrating the courage, commitment, and achievements of 12 leaders of the struggle for African-American civil rights. The stamps were issued February 21, 2009, at the NAACP annual meeting in New York City.

Who was the dedicating oDSC02574fficial?

Send your answer to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. From those who answer correctly, we will select nine people, at random, to receive the official First Day of Issue ceremony program from the event. (The program includes all 6 cancelled stamps.) A tenth person, also chosen at random, will receive the Civil Rights Pioneers Cultural Diary Page, a collectible packet that includes background information on the stamp subjects, a timeline, and a souvenir sheet of stamps.

The deadline for entries is midnight EST, Thursday, December 6. Winners will be notified by email. Good luck!

The correct answer to the contest question is Thurgood Marshall, Jr., member of the USPS Board of Governors. Thank you to everyone who entered. If you didn’t win this time, don’t worry; we’ve got plenty more contests planned for the coming weeks.