Once upon a time there was a little girl named Rosa, who loved to read her Bible. One of her favorite stories was the story of Moses, and how he helped the Hebrew slaves gain freedom.
Moses was a young man who lived in Egypt. He knew it wasn’t right for the Hebrew people to be the slaves of the Egyptian king, Pharaoh. One day, he heard a voice inside him say, “Moses, go tell Pharaoh to let my people go!”
The voice of conscience was loud and clear for Moses knew right from wrong. He also knew that when one’s conscience speaks the truth, it is the very voice of God. Moses decided that he had to go see Pharaoh and tell him to “Let my people go!”
When the Hebrew people saw Moses walking toward Pharaoh’s palace, a voice in their hearts began to sing:
“Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt land,
Tell ol’ Pharaoh,
Let my people go!”
But, when Moses told Pharaoh to free the Hebrew people from slavery, Pharaoh simply said, “No, no, no, no, no.”
Moses said, “Be careful, Pharaoh. All God’s children were born to be free. You may be a king but every child of God has royal blood. No one on earth was born to be a slave. You may say slavery is good but the powers of the earth and sun will rebel against that lie. The waters will turn red. The land will be filled with millions of frogs, gnats, flies, and bugs. Cows, horses, and donkeys will get sick. Hailstorms will send ice falling from the sky that will beat down everything growing in the fields. Egypt will be filled with locusts. And darkness will cover the land, turning day into night. Pharaoh, you are on the side of slavery but the universe is on the side of justice.”
And everything Moses said came to pass. Bad stuff started happening. Bugs, frogs—you name it, it happened. Sometimes Pharaoh would get sick and tired of all the misery and he would tell Moses and the Hebrew people, “You are free to go.”
But, as soon as the Hebrew people started packing their bags, Pharaoh would say, “I’ve changed my mind,” and so they would unpack their bags. Finally, Pharaoh got tired of fighting against the cause of freedom. He got sick and tired of frogs in his food and gnats in his ears. He realized that the universe was on the side of justice, and he told Moses and his people to go.
And they did go. Moses and the Hebrew people marched right out of Egypt singing:
“Ain’t gonna let no Pharaoh turn me round, turn me round, turn me round
I’m gonna keep on walking, keep on talking, marching into freedom land.”
Rosa loved to hear this story of Moses and the Hebrew slaves walking to freedom. But as she grew up and got bigger and taller, she began to look around her at the world in which she lived and she realized something . . . she realized that her people were not free.
Everywhere Rosa looked there were signs that said, “Whites Only.” Black people were not allowed in some parks, motels, lunch counters, swimming pools, and schools. They were told to sit at the back of the bus. If a white person needed the seat then the black person had to stand up and give up their seat. Rosa believed that all people should be treated fairly, and she knew in her heart that these rules were wrong.
A lot of other people agreed with her, and they agreed that they needed to challenge these unfair rules. One day Rosa got on the bus, tired after a long day’s work, and sat down. The bus went down the street a few blocks and stopped to let a lot of people who were mostly white get on board. The bus driver told some of the black passengers, including Rosa, to get up from their seats so that the white folks could sit down.
Everyone obeyed the driver—except Rosa. The bus driver told her again to get up, but she still sat in her seat. The driver threatened to call the police but Rosa still sat in her seat. Finally, the police came to take Rosa down to the station. As the other black passengers watched the police take Rosa away, there was a song in their hearts:
“Go down, Rosa, way down in Alabama,
Tell America, let my people go.”
At the police station they fined Rosa $14. But she had started something the police could not stop. The black people of Montgomery, Alabama, decided that they would not ride the buses until all people were treated fairly. This meant that the bus company would lose money. Now, in Egypt, suffering meant frogs, flies, and rivers turning red. In America, suffering means losing money. After a year of boycotting by black people, the bus company took down their “Whites Only” signs, and Rosa sat on the front seat of that bus. Rosa Parks had started a movement to lead her people from oppression toward equality.
Go down, Rosa, way down in Alabama,
Tell America, let my people go!