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Transformational Leader – Rosa Parks Essay

Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama to proud parents Leona and James McCauley a teacher and carpenter respectively. After her parents’ separation, she went to live with her grandparents and attended a local school for African American children. Segregation was very prevalent during this time. Whites and Blacks had different churches, schools, stores, elevators and even drinking fountains. Places often had signs saying “For Colored Only” or “For Whites Only”. The bus system was set up where blacks would sit at the back of the buses while whites would sit at the front. Blacks would have to give up their seats if whites came on the bus and there were no seats available.

Also, if there were seats available at the front blacks were not allowed to sit in them. Rosa was deeply affected by the unfair treatment of blacks and the unfair and rigid justice system that existed. Racism, dementia, the splitting up of her parents, being arrested and memories of her grandfather holding a shotgun when the KKK came up their street also impacted on Rosa. In fact, she had to live with racism and was scared of the members of the KKK who had burned down black school houses and churches. Rosa and her husband Raymond were adamant that they had to do something about it. Consequently, they joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Crucial Experiences, episodes, pre-occupations and challenges

Fighting for Equal Rights

Rosa is known as the “first lady of civil rights” in American history.  Rosa and her husband believed that all persons should be treated equally irrespective of their colour and so knowing that the Freedom train was not supposed to be segregated she took a group on the train and had them join the same line as the white students. Even though, persons did not like it. Rosa, was determined to show that all persons should be treated the same.

Sitting on the Bus

On December 1, 1955 Rosa became famous. Based on the system, once the seats were filled, a black person would have to get up. Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white passenger after two other black persons gave in. Rosa was arrested and refused to pay the fine stating that the law was illegal.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got wind of Rosa’s arrest and led a boycott of the city busses which were mostly utilized by blacks. This lasted for 381 days and is considered the largest boycott in history. The boycott impacted negatively on the bus company. However, the blacks were determined that it would not stop until segregation has ended. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws in Alabama were unconstitutional and led to the laws being changed. After the Boycott, things got difficult for both Rosa and her husband. They both lost their jobs and received many threats. Martin Luther and many other civil rights activists’ homes were destroyed. Rosa and her husband had to therefore relocate to Michigan where she continued to attend civil rights meetings and became a symbol for equality and freedom to many African-Americans.

All Rosa wanted was freedom and as such she has been called “ The Patron Saint,” and “The Spark that lit the fire,” and the “mother of the movement. She will be remembered for the change of the nation for the freedom of the African Americans. ”

Personal attributes, competencies and types of influences she exerted on others.

An important part of leadership is being willing to take risks and taking the first step without fear. Rosa’s husband feared that she would have been killed for her actions. Instead, Rosa was driven by principles and values which drove her to create history as a result of her symbolic actions.

Leadership Qualities cont:

* She let her ACTIONS speak for her. Instead ranting and raving about things, she just quietly took action and gave new truth to the notion that “actions speak louder than words.” Long before her now famous action on the bus, she demonstrated her quiet strength in working to change things that were unjust for the sake of others. * She didn’t stop with one action. Rosa Parks spent a lifetime quietly going about using her influence for good. She stayed true to her convictions. Rosa Parks story is American history…her arrest and trial, a 381-day Montgomery bus boycott, and, finally, the Supreme Court’s ruling in November 1956 that segregation on transportation is unconstitutional …but moreover, her determination to work for others became the catalyst for change throughout her life. * She set the example of the power of feminine dignity. With an undeniable sparkle in her eye, she presented herself to the world with the beauty of dignity and grace. Always a soft, warm smile and understated elegance seemed to follow her presence whenever she showed up. It was a presence that commanded respect and attention without words…just by being a leader in her own right.

Parks stands for the triumph of freedom — of democracy over dictatorship, free enterprise over state socialism, of tolerance over bigotry. The nation was forever transformed by her refusal to give up her seat, advancing the journey toward justice and equality for all.

Parks was not an apolitical, middle-aged lady whose fatigue kept her seated. Both shy and militant, she was a committed activist enmeshed in racial politics — and their class and gender complications — wherever she lived.

Her desire to not give up her seat in the Montgomery Bus embodied the nonviolent overthrow of racism in America. She represents the best of Southern womanhood, a genteel contrast to those angry Northern black radicals clamouring for their rights. Her composure seems to indicate the correct way to bring about real change.

Her refusal and subsequent arrest inspired a 381-day Montgomery bus boycott that led to sit-ins, marches, campaigns and, finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The movement and laws it prompted wrought a revolution in American conventions of race and inaugurated Martin Luther King Jr. as the conscience of America.

The boycott’s success brought the national press to Montgomery. Parks, however, was not included in the triumphant photographs of King and other ministers sitting at the front of the bus. Nor was she permitted to make a speech (as King and other male movement leaders did) to the 15,000 people who gathered in support of the boycott. “Parks was to play a symbolic role and like other women in the movement, she was lauded by the crowd as their heroine but not consulted for her vision of the struggle and subsequent political strategy. This concreted her wishes to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.

Finally the rules for riding the buses were changed. The new rules said: 1. Black and white people could sit wherever they wanted to sit. 2. Bus drivers were to respect all riders. 3. Black people were now allowed to apply for driver positions.


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