Friday, July 28, 2017

Rosa Parks' Latter Years.

After her arrest in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. Yet, she experienced many obstacles. Economic sanctions came against activists. She lost her job at the department store, because of her civil rights activism. Her husband quit his job after his boss forbade him to talk to about his wife or the legal case. Rosa Parks traveled the country to speak on many issues extensively. By 1957, Raymond and Rosa Parks left Montgomery. They came into Hampton, Virginia. They came into Virginia, because she couldn’t find a job. She also disagreed with Dr. King and other leaders of Montgomery’s civil rights leaders about how to proceed. She received constant death threats. In Hampton, she worked as a hostess in an inn at Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), which is a historically black college. Later, Rosa and Raymond Parks including her mother moved north into Detroit. They were inspired do so by Sylvester and Daisley McCauley (her brother and sister-in-law). Many leaders in Detroit wanted to promote a progressive reputation to the city. Yet, Rosa Parks encountered many signs of discrimination against African Americans. In Detroit back then, schools were heavily segregated. Many services in black neighborhoods were substandard. By 1964, Rosa Parks told an interviewer that, “I don't feel a great deal of difference here... Housing segregation is just as bad, and it seems more noticeable in the larger cities." She regularly participated in the movement for open and fair housing. Rosa Parks assisted the first campaign for Congress by John Conyers. She persuaded Dr. Martin Luther King (who was very reluctant to endorse local candidates) to appear before Conyers. Therefore, this boosted the novice candidate’s profile. Conyers was elected. He hired her as a secretary and receptionist for his Congressional office in Detroit. Rosa Parks held this position until she retired in 1988.

In a telephone interview with CNN on October 24, 2005, Conyers recalled, "You treated her with deference because she was so quiet, so serene — just a very special person ... There was only one Rosa Parks." Rosa Parks did much of the daily constituent work for Conyers. She focused on socio-economic issues like welfare, education, job discrimination, and affordable housing. Rosa Parks visited schools, hospitals, senior citizen facilities, and other community meetings. She kept Conyers grounded in community concerns and activism. Rosa Parks continued to be involved in civil rights activism during the mid-1960’s. She traveled to support the Selma to Montgomery Marches, the Freedom Now Party, and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. She befriended Malcolm X, who she regarded as a personal hero. Rosa Parks was concerned about housing issues like other Detroit black human beings. She lived in Virginia Park, which has been damaged by highway construction and urban renewal. By 1962, policies caused the destruction of 10,000 structures in Detroit. 43,096 people were displaced. 70 percent of them were African Americans. Rosa Parks lived about a mile from the epicenter of the 1967 Detroit rebellion. She considered housing discrimination a major reason on why the rebellion took place in the first place. After the rebellion, Rosa Parks worked with members of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and the Republic of New Afrika. She wanted to expose the police brutality in Detroit. She served on a “people’s tribunal” on August 30, 1967. This investigated the killing of three young men by the police during the 1967 rebellion. This was the Algiers Motel incident. She created the Virginia Park district council to help rebuild the area. The council helped to build the only black owned shopping center in the country. Rosa Parks worked in the Black Power Movement. She attended the Philadelphia Black Power conference, and the Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. She also supported and visited the Black Panther school in Oakland.

During the 1970’s, she worked in the prison rights movement. She wanted cases of self-defense to be worked out. She helped found the Detroit chapter of the Joann Little Defense Committee. Rosa Parks supported the Wilmington 10, the RNA-11, and Gary Tyler. Following national outcry around her case, Little succeeded in her defense that she used deadly force to resist sexual assault and was acquitted. Gary Tyler was finally released in April 2016 after 41 years in prison. During the 1970’s, it was a sad time for her in many ways. Her family experienced illnesses. She and her husband had stomach ulcers for years. They were both hospitalized. She had fame and constant speaking engagements. Yet, she wasn’t a wealthy woman. She donated most of the money from speaking to civil rights causes. She lived on her staff salary and her husband’s pension. Medical bills and time missed from work caused financial strain. That is why she received aid from church groups and admirers. Her husband died of throat cancer on August 19, 1977. Her brother and only sibling died of cancer that November. Her personal ordeals caused her to work with her family more. She learned from a newspaper of the death of Fannie Lou Hamer, once a close friend. Parks suffered two broken bones in a fall on an icy sidewalk, an injury which caused considerable and recurring pain. She decided to move with her mother into an apartment for senior citizens. There she nursed her mother Leona through the final stages of cancer and geriatric dementia until she died in 1979 at the age of 92.

In 1992, Rosa Parks published “Rosa Parks: My Story.” This book was an autobiography that was geared to younger readers. It shows her life leading to her decision to keep her seat on the bus. Years later in 1995, she published Quiet Strength. This book was her memoir, which focused on her faith. At the age of 81, she was robbed and assaulted in her home in central Detroit on August 30, 1994. The assailant, Joseph Skipper, broke down the door but claimed he had chased away an intruder. He requested a reward and when Parks paid him, he demanded more. Parks refused and he attacked her. Hurt and badly shaken, Parks called a friend, who called the police. A neighborhood manhunt led to Skipper's capture and reported beating. Parks was treated at Detroit Receiving Hospital for facial injuries and swelling on the right side of her face. Parks said about the attack on her by the African-American man, "Many gains have been made ... But as you can see, at this time we still have a long way to go." Skipper was sentenced to 8 to 15 years and was transferred to prison in another state for his own safety. She had anxiety. So, she moved into Riverfront Towers. This was a secure high rise apartment building. Learning of Parks' move, Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch offered to pay for her housing expenses for as long as necessary.

In 1994, the Ku Klux Klan applied to sponsor a portion of United States Interstate 55 in St. Louis County and Jefferson County, Missouri, near St. Louis, for cleanup (which allowed them to have signs stating that this section of highway was maintained by the organization). Since the state could not refuse the KKK's sponsorship, the Missouri legislature voted to name the highway section the "Rosa Parks Highway". When asked how she felt about this honor, she is reported to have commented, "It is always nice to be thought of." In 1999, Parks filmed a cameo appearance for the television series Touched by an Angel.  It was her last appearance on film; health problems made her increasingly an invalid. In 2002, Rosa Parks received an eviction notice from her $1800 per month apartment due to nonpayment of rent. She had age related physical and mental decline, so she had difficulty paying for her financial affairs. Her rent was paid from a collection taken by Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. When her rent became delinquent and her impending eviction was highly publicized in 2004, executives of the ownership company announced they had forgiven the back rent and would allow Parks, by then 91 and in extremely poor health, to live rent free in the building for the remainder of her life.  Elaine Steele, who manages the nonprofit Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, told the newspaper that Parks gets proper care and eviction notices were sent in error in 2002. Her heirs and various interest organizations alleged at the time that her financial affairs had been mismanaged. During the later years of Rosa Parks’ life, she continued to live her life.

By Timothy

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