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Before Rosa Parks: 6 Facts About Civil Rights Activist Mary Louise Smith and the Other Women Who Refuse To Be Moved

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Mary Louise Smith (born in 1937)

On Oct. 21 1955, Smith boarded a Montgomery bus on her way home. The bus driver asked Smith to give up her seat to a white passenger but she refused to do so. At only 18-years-old, Smith became one of the sparks of the burgeoning civil rights movement when she was arrested for defying the unjust segregation law. Her father bailed her out of jail and they took immediate action. This event happened only 40 days before Rosa Parks was arrested. Smith did not become the face of the movement because her father was an alcoholic and the NAACP thought that would not look well.

Aurelia Browder

Aurelia Browder (Jan. 29, 1919 – Feb. 4, 1971)

Browder was one of the first women to defy the segregation law. On April 19, 1955, she decided not to give up her seat for a white passenger eight months before Parks. What makes Browder different from her counterparts is that she was a civil rights activist before her arrest. While attending Alabama State University, Browder became close friends with activist Jo Ann Gibson Robinson who inspired her to get involved in tutoring Black voters who needed help reading.  She was diligent in her efforts to eliminate the poll tax charged to registered voters. She transported voters to the polls and would-be voters for registration, according to Civil Rights Movement Veterans.

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