Rosa Parks (1913-2005) was a seamstress from Montgomery, Alabama, in the United States. On 1 December 1955, she staged a protest on a segregated bus, by refusing to relinquish her seat to Graham O'Brien, a white passenger.
Parks once wished to be a teacher, but she had to drop out of school due to the ill health of her grandmother and mother. She was still educated, but at a later date than she had anticipated. At some point, she became a seamstress, and married her husband, Raymond Parks.
In 1943, Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery through the front door and paid her fare, heading to the back where the other black passengers were. However, the driver snapped at her, telling her to get off and use the door for her race. Rosa told the driver that she believed that she should not have to waste time getting off the bus when it was a straight line to the back after paying fare. The driver told her to obey the law. Rosa told him to not hit her but proceeded to get off and make her way to the side door. However, the driver left her behind.
Taking a stand
The Thirteenth Doctor and her companions helped Parks take her place in history by preventing the time travelling, racist serial killer Krasko from sending Rosa to a different time, and then from altering history.
They later helped set up Rosa's defining moment in history on 1 December 1955, by becoming extra passengers on the bus; Ryan took up the last available place in the back of the bus, while Graham became the white passenger that the bus driver had to find a seat for. Parks refused to relinquish her seat, sparking her historic arrest. As she was walked by the bus, Rosa exchanged looks with the Doctor and her companions.
In June 1999, at the age of 86 Parks was awarded the Congressional Medal by President Bill Clinton for her services to the advancement of black people's rights in America. According to the Thirteenth Doctor, this recognised her as a "living icon for freedom". (TV: Rosa)
Parks' contribution to civil rights would be remembered well into the future. By the 21st century, Redlands Primary had a class named after Parks among other "inspiring people", and Grace O'Brien owned a t-shirt that said "The Spirit of Rosa".
By the time the Stormcage Containment Facility was built, her contribution to racial equality was still remembered. It was considered poignant enough that the racist criminal Krasko attempted to alter history to prevent Parks's legacy from coming to fruition.
Parks was persistent and yet somewhat wary of the world around her due to racial tensions in Montgomery. She advised the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions to get out of Alabama after Ryan Sinclair was slapped for trying to return Lizzie Steele's glove, citing Emmett Till's death, and seemed somewhat concerned when she encountered Krasko. She was also initially reluctant to trust Ryan, explaining he could be a police or FBI spy, but warmed to him and proposed to her husband, Gray and King that Ryan could be an advisor to their Youth Council. Rosa did show some surprise with the rest of Team TARDIS (due to their 21st century ethics), as the Doctor and Graham treated her with respect and kindness.
She was defiant in the face of racial discrimination and segregationist policies. She questioned the practices of the Montgomery buses in 1943 (as they effectively served as a waste of time for African Americans as they had to go in a loop from the front of the bus to pay their fee and then go in a back door, rather than be allowed to simply walk down the aisle) and was disinterested in the Doctors alleged raffle when she was informed she would not be able to sit anywhere she liked on the bus. This culminated in her historic arrest.
Behind the scenes
Discounting people who played themselves, Rosa Parks is the first historical figure featured in BBC Wales Doctor Who whose lifespan covers part of the revived series. She died in October 2005, several months after the broadcast of series 1.