Rosa Parks (1913-2005)"The only tired I was, was tired of giving in," Rosa Parks would go on to say about her decision not to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., bus on Dec. 1, 1955. This wasn't the first time the seamstress had chosen not to give in. Parks had been an active member of the local NAACP chapter since 1943 and had marched on behalf of the Scottsboro boys, who were arrested in Alabama in 1931 for raping two white women. But it was her simple act of refusal, a move which landed Parks in prison, that set in motion the Montgomery bus boycott and kicked off the civil rights movement. So when the bulldogs and water hoses were unleashed a decade later in the streets of Birmingham, the protesters knew to stand their ground. "Over my head, I see freedom in the air," they sang.
Claudette Colvin. Nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous bus boycott, Colvin at 15 refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. She was inspired to stand up for her rights after learning about African American leaders in school. Civil rights leaders didn't publicize her story because she became an unwed mother
American pacifist James Zwerg after being beaten by a mob in Montgomery, Alabama in 1960 as part of the Freedom Riders. Zwerg volunteered to leave the bus first upon arriving in Montgomery, knowing he’d be the blunt of the violent crowd’s aggression. He would have died that day if an anonymous black man hadn’t stepped in and saved his life by deflecting the mob’s attention to himself.