This Month in History: December

Rosa Parks, green and yellow bus Parks rode now at the Henry Ford Museum, Rosa Parks being fingerprinted

December 1, 1955 - Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott 

The birth of the modern civil rights movement occurred when Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man as was required by law. Parks was arrested and fined and the African American community decided to unite. The Montgomery Improvement Association was formed and a young pastor, Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected its president. On Dec. 5 the Montgomery bus boycott began as 40,000 Black bus riders - the majority of the city's passengers - stopped riding the municipal buses. The boycott continued until Dec. 20, 1956, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregated seating on buses violated the 14th Amendment. (Images found on Flickr: Rosa Parks, bus, Parks arrested)


If you'd like to read more about Rosa Parks:

Adults: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis

Children: A Girl Named Rosa: the True Story of Rosa Parks by Denise Lewis Patrick

Rosa Parks by Kitson Jazynka


If you'd like to read more about the Montgomery bus boycott:

Adults: Daughter of the Boycott: Carrying on a Montgomery Family's Civil Rights Legacy by Karen Gray Houston

Julian Bond's Time to Teach: a History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement by Julian Bond

Children: Freedom Walkers: the Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman


wreckage of USS Arizona, USS Arizona Memorial, Japanese Americans at an internment camp in Arizona

December 7, 1941 - Pearl Harbor attacked 

The United States Naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was attacked by nearly 200 Japanese planes early on a Sunday morning. Twenty ships and over 300 planes were destroyed. The USS Arizona was sunk trapping more than 1,000 sailors inside. The raid lasted just over an hour and killed almost 2,500 Americans. The next day, President Roosevelt addressed Congress in his "a date which will live in infamy" speech. The United States declared war on Japan and shortly thereafter on Germany and Italy. In response to the attack, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forcibly moved those of Japanese descent into internment camps. The majority of the 120,000 people affected by this order were United States citizens. Their assets and belongings were seized and they were forced to live in deplorable conditions behind barbed wire. The last of the relocation centers were closed in 1946. (Colorado River Relocation Center image from Flickr)


If you'd like to read more about Pearl Harbor:

Adults: Countdown to Pearl Harbor: the Twelve Days to the Attack by Steve Twomey

Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation into War by Steven Gillon

Children: A Date Which Will Live in Infamy: Attack on Pearl Harbor by Virginia Loh-Hagan

Remember Pearl Harbor: American and Japanese Survivors Tell Their Stories by Thomas B. Allen


If you'd like to read more about the impact and repercussions:

Adults: Facing the Mountain: a True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II by Daniel James Brown

Children: Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: a Japanese Pilot's World War II Story by Marc Taylor Nobleman

Uprooted: the Japanese American Experience during WWII by Albert Marrin


The formal portraits and fur clad photos in Antarctica of 3 men: Ernest Shackleton, Robert Scott, and Roald Amundsen. Amundsen planting the Norwegian flag in the ice in Antarctica.

December 14, 1911 - Roald Amundsen first to the South Pole

Norwegian Roald Amundsen spent his life exploring the frozen wonders of this world and trying to be the first to get there. Amundsen was the first mate on the Belgian in 1897, which was the first ship to winter in Antarctica. In 1903, aboard the Gjöa, he was the first to navigate through the Northwest Passage and around the Canadian coast. In 1911, he and Robert Scott were both headed for the South Pole. Amundsen got his ship 60 miles closer to the South Pole, making his journey with sled dogs shorter. Unfortunately, Scott used motor sledges, which broke down. His team eventually made it on foot to the South Pole but didn't survive the journey back to their base camp.


If you'd like to read more about Roald Amundsen:

Adults: The Last Viking: the Life of Roald Amundsen by Stephen Bown

Children: Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica by Rachel Barone


If you'd like to read more about exploring Antarctica:

Adults: Madhouse at the End of the Earth: the Belgica's Journey into the Dark Antarctic Night by Julian Sancton

The Stowaway: a Young Man's Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica by Laurie Gwen Shapiro

Children: Life in a Frozen World: Wildlife of Antarctica by Mary Batten

Surviving Antarctica: Ernest Shackleton by Matt Doeden


Wilbur and Orville Wright on front porch. Orville flying his glider. Wilbur, Katharine, Oliver Wright.

December 17, 1903 - Wright Brothers first airplane flight 

Wilbur Wright was always bright, but an accident while playing ice hockey led to him not finishing high school or going on to Yale University as planned. Instead, he stayed home and read. Always interested in mechanics and keeping up with scientific research, he and his kid brother Orville opened a bike shop, fixing and designing bicycles. When German aviator Otto Lilienthal died in a glider crash, the brothers decided to start their own experiments with flight. After three years of experimentation, Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flights. They made four flights near Kitty Hawk, N.C. The longest lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet. Many didn't believe the brothers and so they headed to Europe where they made several public flights. The brothers became famous and started selling airplanes in Europe and then back in the United States. (Wilbur and Orville Wright from the Library of Congress)


If you're interested in reading more about the Wright brothers:

Adults: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

Children: Airborne: a Photobiography of Wilbur and Orville Wright by Mary Collins

The Wright Brothers: Nose-diving into History by Erik Slader


If you're interested in reading more about aviation:

Adults: Airline Maps: a Century of Art and Design by Mark Ovenden

Flight: the Complete History of Aviation by R.G. Grant

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O'Brien

Children: Bessie Coleman: Bold Pilot Who Gave Women Wings by Martha London


Factual information adapted from: The Henry Ford Museum, the National Park ServiceWorld Book, and History

By BethN on December 2, 2021