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"Its teaching became a way of life and helped me in dealing with my day-to-day problems." She did, however, augment her nonviolent disposition with a belief that revenge was sometimes necessary.

"The denomination became known as 'The Freedom Church' during the abolitionist movement," Parks proudly boasts.

"It was the spiritual home of many well-known black persons in our history before civil rights." The first AME church in Alabama was established in Mobile fifty years later, as AME churches spread throughout the South after the Civil War; it counted nearly seven thousand congregations with over half a million members when Rosa Mc Cauley was born in 1913.

Naturally demure, she was reserved in church, but just hearing her family and friends shouting "Amen! " filled Parks with a certitude in her deep Christian faith. All her life Rosa Parks remained a devoted member of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, founded in 1816 in Philadelphia by the Bishop Richard Allen, a former slave.

From its inception, the AME Church, through its Freedom's Journal, petitioned legislatures to end slavery.

Hymns played a large part in the AME Sunday service, which spawned the gospel-music genre from the singing and shouting and dancing in ecstatic celebration of Jesus Christ.

Although they observed the same Communion rituals as traditional Methodist churches, AME preachers didn't just intone passages from the New Testament; they used impassioned oratory to bring the spirit of the Lord right into their congregations.

From 1619, when the first human captives landed in Virginia, until 1773 there were no black churches anywhere in America, and the only blacks in white churches were relegated to the galleries.

But from the Revolutionary War era onward, African Americans took not only the Bible but organized religious gatherings and rituals as passionately to heart as their ancestors had those of their native African faiths, such as the Yoruba religion, whose adherents memorized thousands of proverbs and allegories.

"I always wanted to go." Afflicted by chronic tonsillitis, as a child Rosa often stayed sick in bed for days, unable to swallow without terrible pain.

The condition lasted until she was nine and her mother could finally afford to pay for a tonsillectomy in Montgomery.

In her 1994 book Quiet Strength, Parks described how her belief in Christ as humanity's savior developed after her baptism in the AME Church at the age of two.