Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks, with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the background, in 1955, Ebony Magazine, USIA/National Archives and Records Administration

Birth Name: Rosa Louise McCauley

Date of Birth: February 4, 1913

Place of Birth: Tuskegee, Alabama, U.S.

Date of Death: October 24, 2005

Place of Death: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.

Ethnicity: African-American, as well as smaller amounts of English and Irish

Rosa Parks was an American civil rights activist. She is known for rejecting bus driver James F. Blake’s’s request to relinquish her seat to a white passenger in 1955; she was thus arrested for civil disobedience, for violating Alabama’s segregation laws. Inspiring the Montgomery bus boycott, Rosa participated in the subsequent legal challenge. An Alabama court ruled the following year that bus segregation was unconstitutional. At the time, Rosa was a department store seamstress, and a secretary at the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter. Hailed for her actions, she bcame a worldwide symbol of resistance to racism, and joined in organizing with civil rights leaders Edgar Nixon and Martin Luther King, Jr. She was later a secretary to a U.S. Congressman, was active in the Black Power movement, and supported political prisoners in the U.S. Rosa Parks has been honoured as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” by the U.S. Congress. Upon her death in 2005, she was the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.

Rosa was the daughter of Leona (Edwards), a teacher, and James McCauley, a carpenter. All of Rosa’s grandparents were black. One of her maternal great-great-grandfathers was Irish, and a maternal great-grandfather on another line was likely white, as well. A picture of Rosa’s father can be seen here. Rosa is sometimes described as having had some degree of Cherokee Native American, Creek Native American, and/or Scots-Irish/Northern Irish ancestry. It is not clear if any or all of these lineages have been verified/documented.

She was partly raised on her grandparents’ farm, outside Pine Level, Montgmery County, AL. Rosa was married to barber and NAACP staffer Raymond Parks, until his death.

Rosa’s paternal grandfather was named Anderson McCauley. Anderson was born in Alabama or Georgia.

Rosa’s paternal grandmother was named Louisa Collins. Louisa was born in Alabama.

Rosa’s maternal grandfather was named Sylvester Edwards (the son of Rosa Jones). Sylvester was born in Alabama. Rosa’s great-grandmother Rosa was the daughter of Joseph Jones and Mary Potter. Rosa’s grandfather Sylvester is described in the book Rosa Parks: A Life in American History, 2021, page 6, as having been the son of a white plantation owner, likely named John Edwards, who raped Rosa’s great-grandmother.

Rosa’s maternal grandmother was Rose/Rosena/Rosie Percival (the daughter of James Percival and Mary Janes Nobles). Rosa’s grandmother Rose was born in Alabama. James’s father was Irish.

Sources: Genealogies of Rosa Parks –

Rosa Parks/Rosa McCauley on the 1920 U.S. Census –

Rosa’s father on the 1910 U.S. Census –

Rosa’s mother on the 1910 U.S. Census –


Curious about ethnicity

42 Responses

  1. tomoyo says:

    I’m pretty confident that John Edwards was white. Sylvester Edwards is usually described in Rosa Parks biographies as having been very light-skinned, enough that he sometimes passed as white.

    The 2021 book “Rosa Parks: A Life in American History” says Sylvester Edwards’ father was a white plantation owner.

  2. izzybizzy says:

    No one asked Andrew, you’re so annoying you need to find a job.

  3. Freerk says:

    She’s a legend.

    And there’s another legend in the background. Nice picture.

  4. Multiethnicchick says:

    This is a mixed race woman. I remember when I saw her for the first time. I was so surprised that Americans were calling her black. Stupid racist idiots have no idea what a black person looks like. That’s why a white woman can claim black if she gets a curly wig and tan in this stupid country

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