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US civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks dead

October 25, 2005 19:12 IST

Rosa Parks, the woman who defied a diktat requiring Blacks to give up bus seats to Whites and inadvertently sparked off the historic civil rights movement in America, is dead.

The 92-year-old Parks died of natural causes on Monday evening.

A name that may mean little to non-Americans, it was Parks' refusal to yield her seat and subsequent arrest on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama that formed the catalyst for Martin Luther King's epoch-changing movement.

Parks later said she did not fully realise what she was starting. Her action and protests by Black people, joined by White liberals, eventually led to equal rights for all races.

In those days, the South strictly enforced segregation in schools, libraries and all public places, including bathrooms and water fountains for Blacks and Whites.

In the hot summer, if there was one fountain in a public place, it was only for the benefit of Whites. A separate fountain for Blacks was regarded as a special favour to a community, which was doing most of the white man's work.

Parks, who worked in Democratic Congressman John Conyers' office for more than 20 years, had been suffering from dementia since 2002.

"Rosa was a true giant of the civil rights movement," Conyers said. "There are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of the nation. Rosa Parks is one of those individuals."

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