As Martin Luther King Jr. Day rolls around, we must not forget the catalysts who kickstarted the civil rights movement, along with MLK himself. Most importantly so were Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Malcolm X.
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man, was jailed and caused a community outrage. What most don’t know, however, about her civil rights involvement is that the Montgomery Bus Boycotts were given the final push by her arrest. Although given only a $14 fine and a few days in the county jail, Park’s refusal to give up her seat on the bus led to (arguably) the longest bus boycott in history. 381 days. The bus system could no longer support the segregation laws and changed it to keep buses and their business running, after a long court hearing.
Emmett Till is another important cog in the machine that was the Civil Rights Movement. Till himself was not an activist, but what happened to this 14-year-old boy was certainly eye-opening enough. After allegedly whistling at Ms. Carolyn Bryant in Mississippi one day, Bryant’s husband and half-brother brutally beat, shot him in the head and desecrated his body before throwing Till in the Tallahatchie River. Recently, Bryant relinquished her testimony and apologized, but it was decades too late. While Till didn’t necessarily advocate for any civil rights equality, his death certainly outraged the comfortable to make a change in their community.
Last but not least, Malcolm X encouraged members of the black and Muslim community to take their freedom “by any means necessary”. X not only founded the Black Power movement but insisted that African-Americans totally separate from white culture. This being a radical idea but widely followed by black youth in the 1960s-70s, the separative behavior of the Black Power followers matched with the peaceful sit-ins of MLK Jr. perfectly overwhelmed white supremacists.
While it’s important to remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s efforts in the Civil Rights Movement, it’s also crucial to honor those like Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Malcolm X (as well as countless others) for their sacrifice.