She was born in Tuskegee, Alabama and is most famous for her December 1, 1955 arrest for refusing a bus driver's order to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested, tried, and convicted for disorderly conduct, and on appeal, the case ultimately resulted in the 1956 United States Supreme Court ruling that segregated bus service was unconstitutional. Her arrest was used by Baptist minister Martin Luther King, Jr to lead the successful year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott and to help mount other protests against laws requiring racial segregation.
Although she is known for refusing to give up her bus seat, she was not the first to do so. The NAACP considered but rejected earlier protesters deemed unable or unsuitable to withstand the pressure of a legal challenge to segregation laws (See Claudette Colvin, Mary Louise Smith and Irene Morgan). It has also been speculated that since Rosa Parks worked for the NAACP, the organization was predisposed towards selecting her.
She served on the staff of U. S. Representative John Conyers (D, Michigan) from 1965-1988.
The Rosa Parks Library and Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, was dedicated in November 2001. It tells the story of the events leading up to her historic act of civil disobedience, and how her simple act connects to the larger tapestry of the civil rights movement.