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Rosa Parks

On 1 December 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a black woman named Rosa Parks insisted on sitting in the front of a bus.

She had just finished a day at work as a seamstress and refused to make room for a white passenger when asked to give up her seat by the driver.

The segregation laws in America’s deep south reserved the front section of public buses for whites (although most bus passengers in Montgomery were blacks and the front section was often almost empty).

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Although Parks had taken her place in the ‘correct’ area for black passengers, the driver on the crowded bus moved back the line of segregation so more white passengers could claim a seat.

Rosa Parks ignored the bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus and was arrested.

Three days later she was fined $14 after telling the court that she had kept the seat “because my feet hurt”.

The incident triggered a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery City Lines buses, led by local black minister Martin Luther King. The boycott gave momentum to a nationwide campaign to end segregation on public facilities and was central to the whole civil rights movement in the United States.

City Lines lost 65% of its revenue through the boycott and was eventually forced to integrate seating, promise courteous treatment to black passengers and begin hiring black drivers.

In the wake of her trial, Rosa Parks lost her job and received death threats.