Rosa Parks And Malcolm X's Friendship Explained

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white man on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama (per History). Despite facing negative consequences, including her arrest, this moment would broadly define the Civil Rights Movement. According to the National Women's History Museum, Parks' actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ultimately, this led to the desegregation of the city's public transportation. But as The Washington Post explains, Parks had been fighting for equality long before this incident took place. Both she and her husband Raymond were a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Nevertheless, being asked to move on the bus threw her over the edge, and rightfully so. She later wrote (via History), "People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired." She added "but that isn't true. I was not tired physically ... No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in." 

Biography reports that as a result of her activism, she later became acquainted with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Malcolm X is a fellow Civil Rights figure that is best known for his association with the Nation of Islam. Unlike King, Malcolm X supported the use of violence to evoke social change, per The Guardian.

Rosa Parks and Malcolm X had similar beliefs

According to The Christian Science Monitor, King admired Parks and wrote "She was a charming person with a radiant personality, soft-spoken and calm in all situations." The feeling was mutual as Biography states that Parks agreed with King's conviction that equality could be achieved without using violence. However, Parks was also not opposed to fighting back. For this reason, The Washington Post writes that she viewed Malcolm X as a hero. He famously said in a 1964 speech that African Americans should "protect themselves by whatever means necessary." Although Parks has continually been described by others as "quiet," it seems her perceived demureness belied steely determination.

Per the HuffPost, Parks had the same sentiments as Malcolm X and was an advocate for self-defense. The publication adds that there were several moments in Parks' life that led her to this belief. When a white child pushed her, she pushed him back. Later, a white man threatened to hurt her, and Parks grabbed a brick to intimate him. Another article from The Washington Post states that her grandfather would stay up all night to protect the family from the KKK. Of this, she said, "I wanted to see him kill a Ku-Kluxer." She also divulged (via The Washington Post), "I would rather be lynched than live to be mistreated and not be allowed to say 'I don't like it.' "

Rosa Parks and Malcolm X met a handful of times

Although the depth of their friendship is not widely known, Rosa Parks' Biography reports that she and Malcolm X met for the first time in November 1963. The publication notes that he wanted to meet Parks. He was impressed by her activism and strength. Furthermore, The Urban Daily adds that Malcolm X mentioned Parks in some of his speeches. However, their bond was short-lived. On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York (via The New York Times). He and Parks had seen each other days earlier, on February 14.

According to The Urban Daily, Malcolm X traveled to Detroit to attend an event for the Afro-American Broadcasting Association. Per Biography, Parks had been living in Detroit since 1957 where she continued to fight for Civil Rights. She was honored for her work at this event by Malcolm X and Rosa Parks' Biography writes that she was also given an award. It was the last time they saw each other. 

After his death, Parks continued to spread Malcolm X's message. In 1967, she stated (via Biography), "If we can protect ourselves against violence it's not actually violence on our part. That's just self-protection, trying to keep from being victimized with violence."