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Remembering Auntie Rosa

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Amsterdam News Staff | 3/18/2013, 12:05 p.m.
Remembering Auntie Rosa

McCauley explained her family tree: "[My] great-grandfather, Anderson McCauley, was 100 percent Cherokee. Anderson's tribe was slaughtered by a Col. McCauley and his troops. Anderson's mother told him to run, but Col. McCauley spotted him. He liked him and raised him as his son. Anderson McCauley was Rosa's grandfather and my great grandfather.

"Anderson was betrothed to a woman named Louisa Collins. Louisa had been raised by her aunt, Reba Clendenon, who was the wife of a plantation owner. From what we know, Reba's brother was the father of Louisa. Louisa's mother was a slave. The Clendenon clan and Col. McCauley decided they would get Louisa and Anderson together. They had 13 children, according to the 1910 census. Their son, James, was Rosa's father. James was 50 percent Cherokee, 25 percent white and 25 percent Black.

"During my first conversation with Rosa, I was very nervous. I was starstruck. As the conversation went on, I relaxed. She said, 'You don't have to be scared. You can ask me anything.' You could feel that quiet strength in that soft-spoken voice she had. I asked her to repeat herself. She was so soft spoken that I couldn't hear her. I actually received more history from her than from the history books in Stephentown, N.Y.

"I was always under the impression from the history books that Rosa was tired from her day of work. I asked her was she that tired that she wasn't willing to give up the seat? Rosa said, 'You know we have to straighten this out. My boss let me go home early and I wanted to make a nice dinner for my mother and my husband. I was sitting in the first seat in the colored section and I paid the same amount of money for that seat as everyone else paid, and I was tired of being treated unfairly.' I asked her, 'Wasn't it the law?' She said, 'Yes, it was the law.'

"'More whites had gotten onto the bus and there were no seats left in the white section. So the driver got up and took the colored sign and moved it back and told us to give up the seats.' Rosa said that she asked the driver, 'Why do you treat us so unfairly? I paid the same amount of money as everyone else.' The driver said, 'I don't know,' but it was the law and she had to obey the law.

"The gentleman sitting next to her got up and moved. Rosa got up and let him move and he said, 'Ma'am, you have to give up your seat.' Rosa said, 'No. I'm tired of being pushed around.' The driver replied, 'I'll have to have you arrested,' and Rosa responded, 'You may do that.' And, as you know, she was arrested," McCauley said.

Parks was fingerprinted and had her photo taken. She was detained a few hours before being released.

McCauley continued, "I asked her if she was scared, and she said that up until that moment, she hadn't really thought about it. But yes, she was very scared because she knew the possibility of her life being taken because she wouldn't give up that seat was right there. But she also knew that she was doing the right thing.