Skip to main content
Month Day
February 04

Civil rights icon Rosa Parks is born

Rosa Louise McCauley—known to history by her married name, Rosa Parks—is born in Tuskegee, Alabama on February 4, 1913. A lifelong civil rights activist, Parks' name has become synonymous with her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus in 1955, a defining moment of the civil rights movement.

Parks was born and raised during the Jim Crow Era, a time of ubiquitous and strictly-enforced racial segregation in the South. As a young girl, she watched white students ride to school on a bus while she had to walk. "The bus was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world," she later recalled. After moving to Montgomery, she married Raymond Parks, a barber who was heavily involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and became involved with the nascent civil rights struggle. In 1943, due largely to her being the only woman at the meeting, she was elected Secretary of the NAACP's Montgomery chapter. In this role, Parks dealt with the local media, corresponded with other NAACP chapters and processed the many reports of injustice which the organization received.

WATCH: Rosa Parks: Mother of a Movement on HISTORY Vault

It was partially because of her contributions to the movement and standing in the community that local leaders chose to rally behind Parks when, on December 1st, 1955, she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. Parks, like several other women that year, was arrested and fined for violating Jim Crow laws, but it was her action that set the Montgomery Bus Boycott into motion. Civil rights activists in Montgomery, including the young Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had been waiting for the appropriate moment to challenge the city's segregated transit system. They succeeded in organizing the African American community of Montgomery to boycott the buses for over a year, until a court ruling officially desegregated them on December 20, 1956. The boycott and the triumph of its organizers received nationwide coverage and have gone down as one of the major early victories of the civil rights movement.

READ MORE: Rosa Parks' Life After the Bus Was No Easy Ride

Parks remained a civil rights advocate for the rest of her life. She moved to Detroit not long after the boycott, but returned to Alabama for the Selma-to-Montgomery Marches and made appearances around the country. For years, she served in the office of Rep. John Conyers, a pioneering congressman from Detroit, acting as a liaison between his office and the community while advocating for housing and economic justice. When Parks died in 2005, she became the first female American who was not an elected official to lie in honor in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. A recipient of numerous medals and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Parks continues to hold a hallowed place in the pantheon of American leaders.

READ MORE: Rosa Parks: Her Life and Legacy

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.


Amadou Diallo killed by police

Plainclothes officers of the New York Police Department’s Street Crime Unit fire 41 shots at unarmed Amadou Diallo, an immigrant from Guinea, killing him on the steps of his apartment building shortly after midnight on February 4, 1999. Diallo’s killing sparked a public outcry more

Facebook launches

On February 4, 2004, a Harvard sophomore named Mark Zuckerberg launches The Facebook, a social media website he had built in order to connect Harvard students with one another. By the next day, over a thousand people had registered, and that was only the beginning. Now known more

States meet to form Confederacy

In Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana convene to establish the Confederate States of America. As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between the North and the South over the issue of slavery led Southern more

George Washington unanimously elected first U.S. president

George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, is unanimously elected the first president of the United States by all 69 presidential electors who cast their votes. John Adams of Massachusetts, who received 34 votes, was elected vice more

Patty Hearst kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army

On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, the 19-year-old granddaughter of newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, is kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by three armed strangers. Her fiancee, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to more

Germany declares war zone around British Isles

A full two years before Germany’s aggressive naval policy would draw the United States into the war against them, Kaiser Wilhelm announces an important step in the development of that policy, proclaiming the North Sea a war zone, in which all merchant ships, including those from more

First U.S. helicopter is shot down in Vietnam

The first U.S. helicopter is shot down in Vietnam. It was one of 15 helicopters ferrying South Vietnamese Army troops into battle near the village of Hong My in the Mekong Delta. The first U.S. helicopter unit had arrived in South Vietnam aboard the ferry carrier USNS Core on more

“The Last of the Mohicans” is published

On February 4, 1826, The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper is published. One of the earliest distinctive American novels, the book is the second of the five-novel series called the “Leatherstocking Tales.” Cooper was born in 1789 in New Jersey and moved the following more

Singer-songwriter Karen Carpenter dies

Karen Carpenter, a singer who long suffered under the burden of the expectations that came with pop stardom, died on February 4, 1983, succumbing to heart failure brought on by her long, unpublicized struggle with anorexia. Carpenter had a fixation with her weight from her more

Disney releases “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

“See for yourself what the genius of Walt Disney has created in his first full length feature production,” proclaimed the original trailer for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released on February 4, 1938. Based on the famous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Snow White opened more

Yalta Conference foreshadows the Cold War

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin meet to discuss the Allied war effort against Germany and Japan and to try and settle some nagging diplomatic issues. While a number of important agreements were reached at the more

Ford buys Lincoln

On February 4, 1922, the Ford Motor Company acquires the failing luxury automaker Lincoln Motor Company for $8 million. The acquisition came at a time when Ford, founded in 1903, was losing market share to its competitor General Motors, which offered a range of automobiles while more