The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development was co-founded in February 1987 by Mrs. Rosa Parks and Ms. Elaine Eason Steele, in honor of Raymond Parks (1903 – 1977). It is the living legacy of two individuals who committed their lives to civil and human rights.
Raymond Parks married Rosa McCauley December 18, 1932. He was a barber from Wedowee in Randolph County, Alabama. He had little formal education but a thirst for knowledge and a no nonsense approach to life. He supported his wife’s “Quiet Strength” and encouraged youth to get a good education to support themselves, their families and to eliminate discrimination in this country.
Elaine Eason Steele, met Mrs. Rosa Parks at work in a sewing factory, in the early 1960′s while still a high school student. Following graduation she volunteered to work with Mrs. Parks and help in any meaningful way she could. She became a good friend, like the daughter she never had. Elaine also knew Mrs. Parks wanted to honor Mr. Parks and knew of her love and commitment to youth. In 1987, they began the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
The era of legalized racial segregation caused Raymond’s and Rosa’s commitment to first class citizenship for people of color. Self taught with minimal formal education, Raymond was a skilled barber. Rosa, a domestic worker and seamstress, finished high school after her marriage to Raymond. They both encouraged others to register to vote, pool their financial resources, advocate for quality formal education and become involved in community development.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was arrested December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give her seat to a white male passenger on a segregated bus upon the demands of the bus driver. Four days later, December 5, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began and lasted 381 days. Mrs. Parks’ courage catapulted her into world history where she is affectionately referenced as the “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement.” The boycott also brought world prominence to a young Baptist minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.