December 1, 1955

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Riding home from work, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus.

Civil rights activists had been looking for a case with a sympathetic defendant to challenge segregation laws, and Parks a seamstress and secretary for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People provided it. Her arrest triggered a yearlong black boycott of Montgomery buses, and Parks became the unofficial mother of the civil rights movement.

When Parks died in 2005, she became the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol.

Her legal legacy is still being written, but in an arena unthinkable for a black woman in 1955: intellectual property. Her heirs and the executors of her estate are battling over what constitutes appropriate commercial use of her likeness.

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