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1 December: On this day in history

What events happened on 1 December in history? Dominic Sandbrook rounds up the events, births and deaths…

Published: December 1, 2021 at 6:05 am
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1 December 1955: Rosa Parks sits to take a stand

The civil rights activist is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus

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It was about six in the evening of 1 December 1955 when the 42-year-old Rosa Parks boarded the bus. For 12 years she had been active in the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama, where black Americans were subject to suffocating segregation. She paid her fare and took her seat, in the front row of the designated ‘colored’ section. The bus moved off.

A few minutes later, the bus stopped in front of the Empire Theater. By this time it was almost full, and some white passengers were standing at the front. When the driver noticed, he ordered the first row of black passengers to give up their seats, as the regulations demanded. Rosa Parks was among them. And at that moment, she wrote: “I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

The man next to her moved back; but she did not. The driver asked: “Why don’t you stand up?” Parks replied: “I don’t think I should have to.” She was arrested. Four days later, the Montgomery bus boycott began.

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“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired,” Parks wrote later, “but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Julian Humphrys rounds up smaller anniversaries

1 December 1581
English Jesuit priest Edmund Campion and two companions were executed for treason at Tyburn. Campion had been tortured on several occasions since his arrest in July. He was canonised by the Catholic church in 1970.
1 December 1662
Diarist John Evelyn recorded watching people skate before King Charles II and his wife, Catherine of Braganza, on the frozen ice in St James’s Park.
1 December 1783
Watched by a huge crowd in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, French physicist Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles and designer Marie-Noel Robert make the world's first untethered ascent in a hydrogen balloon.
1 December 1860
More than 140 men and boys and 28 pit ponies were killed in an explosion at the notoriously gaseous Black Vein Colliery at Risca in Gwent, south Wales.
1 December 1919
As Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton, Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons. She had won the by-election after the sitting MP, her husband Waldorf Astor, had forfeited the seat following his succession as Second Viscount Astor. The first woman actually to be elected to the Commons was Constance Markievicz in 1918, but as a member of Sinn Fein, she had disqualified herself from sitting by refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the crown.
1 December 1967
Tony O'Connor becomes Britain's first black headmaster, at Warley School in Worcestershire.

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Authors

Dominic SandbrookHistorian and presenter

Dominic Sandbrook is historian and presenter, and a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine

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