For four generations of my family?#34;grandmother, mother, children and myself?#34;the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” meant a lot, as she did to many, many others. Her impact on all of us is everlasting.

My late grandmother admired how a lady who looked like her dared to defy segregation by refusing to give up her seat to a white man 50 years ago in Alabama. As a little boy, during Negro History Week, I heard my grandmother tell me so. “She was brave,” Grandma said.

My mother would tell me about Parks as we watched her on the news on an old black-and-white TV set with a picture tube not much bigger than an iPod. Mom spoke about “honor and respect” and how Parks stood for that, just as I should.

All three of my children wrote about the civil rights legend in various assignments at Lincoln School. They loved the part about her not giving up her seat and how it created a huge social movement. They later learned a little more about her during the controversy when rap group Outkast miscast her in their lyrics without her permission, then again when a comedian named Cedric the Entertainer, portraying a loud-mouthed barber in “Barbershop,” also created a stir with his words about her motives and manner during this pivotal moment in the movement.

I wrote about her, too, in Profiles of Great African Americans:

“She was born Rosa Louise McCauley in Tuskegee, Ala. in 1913. For the next 42 years, she would live her life in obscurity until that one fateful day in Montgomery, Ala. Then everything would change.

“Three weeks before Christmas in 1955 in Montgomery, 42-year-old seamstress Rosa Parks joined the tired workers at the bus stop after a hard day at her tailoring job. It seemed like the bus would never come. When it finally arrives, all the seats in the back, where blacks were allowed to sit, were quickly taken. Parks sat down in the white section. The bus driver told her and several other African Americans to give up their seats to whites. Parks refused to move. The bus driver called the police and Parks was arrested. She and her husband later lost their jobs.

“Her refusal to give up her seat sparked a movement against segregation in Montgomery, which started with a 381-day bus boycott by African Americans. The leader of that boycott went on to become quite famous?#34;a young black minister named Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

We’ve all read or heard a version of that same story. Few though, have acknowledged, as Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr. did, that not only did Parks’ civil disobedience trigger the modern Civil Rights movement, “it also triggered the women’s movement and the movement for constitutional justice.”

I met Parks at Rainbow PUSH in the mid-’90s. She was as humble and unassuming on the PUSH stage as she was on the world stage. What I found fascinating is that she was a worker who made a difference. So many of us feel, in our small jobs and little corners of the world, that we cannot make a difference, that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not worth the effort because we feel no one cares. This small-boned seamstress in the South, who was both physically and spiritually tired, said no?#34;something maybe more of us should do with the daily indignities we have to endure.

“After so many years of oppression and being a victim of mistreatment that my people had suffered, not giving up my seat?#34;and whatever I had to face after not giving it up?#34;was not all that important,” Parks wrote in her second autobiography, Quiet Strength.

My family’s remaining generations will continue to remember the lessons learned from the wonderful woman who seemed least likely to trigger a social revolution.

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