Parks was born and raised in Tuskegee in 1913. While working as a seamstress in 1943, the woman joined the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Due to segregation laws, African Americans were required to not only sit in the back of the bus, but also to give up their seats to white passengers if the bus filled up.
Unlike the popular legend, Parks' refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man was not as spontaneous as most believe. Parks knew that civil rights leaders had been discussing ways to challenge the Montgomery's racist laws for months now and took advantage of the moment at hand.
See photos of Rosa Parks' arrest:
Rosa Parks and Civil Rights Movement
Today in History: Rosa Parks is arrested
Portrait of Rosa Parks, who organized the boycott of buses in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, 20th century, United States, New York, Schomburg Center. (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images)
Rosa Parks seated toward the front of the bus, Montgomery, Alabama, 1956. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (1913-2005), American Civil Rights activist. Booking photo taken at the time of her arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger on 1 December 1955. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - MARCH 25: Rosa Parks speaking at conclusion of 1965 Selma to Mongomery Civil Rights March; Rev. Ralph Abernathy on left. On March 25, 1965 in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images)
At the culmination of the Selma to Montgomery March, American religious and Civil Right leader Martin Luther King Jr (1929 - 1968) (fore right) and Bernard Lee (1935 - 1991) of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee walk at the the head of the march, Montgomery, Alabama, March 25, 1965. Among the activists in the front line of the march are, from fourth left, Bayard Rustin (1912 - 1987) (in profile, leaning to his left), Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005), Ralph Abernathy (1926 - 1990), Ruth Bunche, Ralph Bunche (1903 - 1971), and Coretta Scott King (1927 - 2006). At the end of the march, King delivered his 'How Long? Not Long!' speech. (Photo by Charles Shaw/Getty Images)
Rosa Parks, left, who was fined $10 and court costs for violating Montgomery's segregation ordinance for city buses, makes bond for appeal to Circuit Court, Dec. 5, 1955. Signing the bond were E.D. Nixon, center, former state president of the NAACP, and attorney Fred Gray. Gray hinted that the ordinance requiring segregation will be attacked as unconstitutional. (AP Photo)
Rosa Parks arrives at circuit court to be arraigned in the racial bus boycott, Feb. 24, 1956 in Montgomery, Ala. The boycott started last Dec. 5, when Mrs. Parks was fined for refusing to move to the black section of a city bus. (AP Photo)
Civil Rights worker Rosa Parks, left and Dr. Martin Luther King, second from left, present the Rosa Parks Outstanding Freedom Award to Reverend James Bevel and his wife Diane Bevel in a ceremony at the annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 13, 1965. (AP Photo)
Rosa Parks, center, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man 20 years ago sparked the historic Montgomery bus boycott, is honored, Dec. 5, 1975 at ceremonies commemorating the civil rights crusade in Montgomery. Beside her are Mrs. Jonnie Carr, president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, and U.S. Rep. Walter Fauntroy of Washington, D.C. (AP Photo)
Rosa Parks is seen in Detroit in May 1971. (AP Photo)
Rosa Parks, right, is kissed by Coretta Scott King, as she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-violent Peace Prize in Atlanta, Jan. 14, 1980. Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus nearly 25 years ago, is the first woman to win the award. (AP Photo)
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, 85, smiles while being recognized at a news conference by several legislators and community leaders at the Fellowship Chapel Saturday, June 20, l998, in Detroit. The event also promoted a book by one of the legislators. (AP Photo/Richard Sheinwald)
Rosa Parks, who sparked the civil rights movement nearly 30 years ago by refusing to give up a bus seat in Montgomery, Ala., joins in a march at the South African Embassy in Washington, Dec. 10, 1984, protesting that country's racial policies. Rep. Mickey Leland, D-Tex., marches behind her. (AP Photo)
A bust of Rosa Parks, sits in the lobby of the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Ala., Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2000. Parks, now 87, will be in Montgomery for the museum's dedication on Friday. (AP Photo/Kevin Glackmeyer)
File - In this Nov. 28, 1999, file photo, Rosa Parks smiles during a ceremony where she received the Congressional Medal of Freedom in Detroit, Mich. The 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott is widely credited with helping spark the modern civil rights movement when Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, file)
About 200 people march through downtown Tuskegee, Ala., during a memorial service in honor of Rosa Parks, Wednesday Oct. 26, 2005. From left to right in the front row are Rev. Farrell J. Duncombe, Carol Gray, Fred Gray, Tuskegee mayor Johnny Ford, Edgar Nixon, Jr., William Armstrong, and Charlie Hardy. Parks, 92, a native of Tuskegee, died earlier in the week at her home in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)
Capitol police officers and visitors walks are seen in the Capitol Rotunda on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 28, 2005 where Rosa Parks, the seamstress whose act of defiance on a public bus sparked the civil rights movement, will join presidents and war heroes who have been honored in death with a public viewing. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
An enlarged booking photo of Rosa Parks faces the crowd in the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church as the Rev. Andrew Dawkins presides over a memorial service for the civil rights icon, Friday, Oct. 28, 2005, in Montgomery, Ala. Parks, who died Monday at 92 at her home in Detroit, ignited the Montgomery bus boycott and the modern civil rights movement on Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)
Thousands gather on the steps of the Capitol celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Thursday Dec. 1, 2005 in Montgomery, Ala. Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested Dec. 1, 1955, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)
The honor guard walks past after carrying the casket of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks who is to lie in honor at the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005 in Washington. Parks is the first woman and second African-American to have this honor. She made history by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man an act of defiance that some say jump-started the U-S civil rights movement in the 1950's. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A military honor guard leads the flag-draped casket of Rosa Parks out of the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005. A church packed with 4,000 mourners celebrated the life of Parks in an impassioned, song-filled funeral, with a crowd of notables giving thanks for the humble woman whose dignity and defiance helped transform a nation. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
A black ribbon is placed on the front seat of an MBTA bus in Boston Thursday, Dec. 1, 2005, commemorating the anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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Upon hearing about Parks' arrest, NAACP leaders organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. Thus began the famous Montgomery Bus Boycotts.
Following a wildly successful first day of protests, Rev. Martin Luther King emerged as a leader for the bus boycotts after sharing a powerful message to the crowd full of African Americans and civil rights activists.
"The great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dec. 5, 1955
The Montgomery Bus Boycotts lasted for more than a year. With more than 70 percent of its bus ridership missing, the municipal transit system in Montgomery suffered major losses.
It wasn't until Nov. 13, 1956 that the United States Supreme Court ruled that Alabama's and Montgomery's bus segregation laws were in violation of the 14th amendment.