Community members reflecton life of activist Rosa Parks

She will be remembered as an icon for her involvement in the civil rights movement.

by Cati Vanden Breul

Rosa Parks received instant fame in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man.

Her act of defiance – and subsequent arrest – led black people to boycott the public transportation system, and eventually resulted in the desegregation of the transportation system in Montgomery, Ala.

Parks, who died Monday at the age of 92, remained an icon throughout the civil rights movement and the rest of her life.

Members of the University community said she will be missed but her accomplishments remembered.

Kirt Wilson, a McKnight Presidential Fellow in the communication studies department, said Parks will likely be remembered as the mother figure of the civil rights movement.

“She was a woman of tremendous courage,” Wilson said.

But Parks should be remembered for more than the famous incident on the bus, Wilson said.

“People don’t really appreciate the degree to which Rosa Parks was a working-class black woman who had to provide for and support her family,” Wilson said.

Sometimes people get so caught up in someone’s fame and iconic status that they forget how their day-to-day life contributes to their personality and accomplishments, Wilson said.

Yukiko Nakajima, a research assistant at the University, said it’s sad when anyone dies, but Parks’ death will be especially felt.

“She was a big-time civil rights activist and a woman of color; that’s how she’ll be remembered,” Nakajima said.

Meghan Malchow, who works at a restaurant on campus, said she was also saddened when she heard the news of Parks’ death.

“She did a lot and she had a huge impact on the world,” Malchow said.

She said she won’t forget Parks.