History of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks Environmental Science Magnet School History


  • One of the City’s original schools, Rosa Parks was built as a six-room school house in 1892 with funds from the City’s first school bond. The original architect was A.H. Broad. The first principal was J.W. Warnisk. The original school was located along Allston between 8th and 9th Street, the site of the current field.
  • By 1902 there were approximately 200 students. During the 1906 earthquake, the southern chimney fell and damaged the western classrooms.
  • In 1906 or 1907 the District purchased two additional lots between 8th and 9th Street at the southern edge of the property. Additional land was purchased at a later date.
  • By 1926 there were four buildings and a total of 19 classrooms. Temporary structures were added and subtracted over the years.
  • During a successful bond campaign in 1948 Columbus was identified as a school that needed to be replaced. By 1950 a contract was let, and the new school was built between 7th and 8th Street. The bid price was $709,456. This school was built by John Lyon Reid. By 1960 there were 806 students enrolled at Columbus. In 1964 a library was added to the building. This was designed by McCue and Associates and William Gillis.
  • In 1991 the school was vacated because it was seismically unsafe. The District explored a retrofit option. In 1994 BUSD hired the Ratcliff Architects to design the new school. In 1995 the Board approved the design and the project was bid in 1996. Construction was completed and the new school opened the fall of 1997. It was funded by the Measure A General Obligation Bond which was passed in 1992.
  • The school received a magnet grant in 1998 and changed the educational program to focus on environmental science.
  • In March 2000, the school was renamed Rosa Parks Environmental Science Magnet School.

About the School’s Namesake

Rosa Parks – On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, a black woman refused to surrender her seat to a white man. Arrested for violating the city’s segregation laws, a mass boycott of the Montgomery bus system ensued, later followed by the nations’ civil rights movement. All of this eventually took place because one woman decided to stand up for what she believed in. That woman was Rosa Parks.

Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her father, James, was a carpenter, and her mother, Leona, was a teacher. She enrolled in the Montgomery School for Girls at the age of 11. The school was privately run by a woman from the North, and the institutions primary philosophy focused on self-worth.

She married Ray Parks, a barber, in 1932. Her husband was active in several civil rights causes, and after attending Alabama State College, Rosa worked for the Montgomery Voters League, the NAACP Youth Council, and other civic and religious organizations. She worked as a seamstress and a housekeeper in order to support herself.

After the December 1 incident, conditions initially worsened for African-Americans in Montgomery. However, a 382 day boycott eventually led to the desegregation of the city’s buses. “I don’t recall that I felt anything great about it,” Ms. Parks remembered in an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser. “It didn’t feel like a victory, actually. There still had to be a great deal to do.”

With that frame of mind, Rosa Parks continued her work for the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, In 1986, she received an Ellis Island Medal of Honor for her achievements in this area.