February in the United States is Black History Month. In honor of that month, each day in February will feature an African-American saint from different periods of the Civil Rights Movements in America.
Kate Brown, 1840 – 1883
Brown worked for the United States Senate washing towels and curtains as the head of the ladies’ retiring room. Not known to be a troublemaker, in 1868 she boarded a train from Alexandria, Virginia, back to Washington, D.C. Though the rail company’s charter prohibited discrimination based on a passenger’s race, the rail company police officer ordered her to board a “colored car” instead of the “ladies’ car”. Brown refused, and was beaten, thrown off the train, and dragged across the pavement. Her injuries were so severe that she was bedridden for weeks. She sued the rail company, won, and when the rail company appealed the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. There, Brown won her case and $1500 in damages. Though her story has been largely forgotten, one of the Congressional Black Associates’ Trailblazer Awards has now been named after her.
God of defiance, you emboldened your servant Kate Brown to stand up to injustice, even when it put her life in danger. Give us the same boldness in the face of injustice, even against threats to our lives. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
Rosa Parks, 1913 – 2005
The name of Rosa Parks has become synonymous with the Civil Rights movement. In Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat to white passengers and was arrested for violating segregation law. Though she was not the first African American to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus, her case received wide national attention. It was the impetus for a boycott of the buses which lasted 381 days, until the segregation law was repealed as unconstitutional. Parks suffered for her civil disobedience: she lost her job and received death threats. In her later years, she worked for Congressman John Conyers, continued to fight against racial injustice, political imprisonment, disparities in higher education, and other social justice issues. When she died, was the first woman and only the third non-US government official to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda.
Immovable God, with one word, “no”, your servant Rosa Parks committed an act of defiance that shook the bonds of racial injustice to their cores, eventually ending decades of legal segregation. May we, when confronted with the same choice, remain as immovable as she was. In the name of your Son, we pray. Amen.