Little Caesars' Founder Paid Rosa Parks' Rent

Little Caesars' Founder Paid Rosa Parks' Rent

It’s pizza week at Cracked. We were very hungry when thinking of this week’s theme.

Rosa Parks' life continued long after the Montgomery bus boycott. She and her husband both lost their jobs thanks to her activism, and they moved from Alabama, finally settling in Detroit. She lived there for 50 years. In the '70s and '80s, she worked toward releasing wrongly convicted prisoners and raising money to send hundreds of kids to college.

In 1994, she was 81. One evening in August, she heard the sounds of a break-in at the rear door of her house. The intruder, 28-year-old Joseph Skipper, had a history of this sort of thing—he'd broken into a church the previous Christmas and had more recently broken into the homes of two other elderly women. But he now recognized the owner of this home and was surprised. "Aren't you Rosa Parks?" he said. "Yeah," she answered.

That didn't stop him from taking her money and beating her up so hard she had to go to the hospital. 

Police tracked the man without much trouble. A judge sentenced him to 8 to 15 years (out of state, else inmates would surely exact a harsher punishment). He'd later go to prison for 10 more years starting in 2009, again for breaking into homes, and in 2020, breaking into yet more homes and beating up even more old ladies landed him another sentence, this one 10 to 25 years. 

Following the 1994 attack, Parks wanted to move somewhere safer but couldn’t afford it, as she'd been donating all her speaking fees. A federal judge, Damon Keith, spoke out about this, and help came from an unlikely source: Mike Ilitch, the founder of Little Caesars. Ilitch paid for her to move to a new secure high-rise and offered to keep paying the rent for the rest of her life (in her final years, a church would pay her rent, and then the building owner finally let her stay there for free). He didn't publicize the move, and no one knew about it till Keith revealed it after Ilitch died a couple years back

Parks also made headlines in 1994 for a different reason. The KKK offered to sponsor a section of I-55 near St. Louis, and Missouri legally had no choice but to accept their offer and credit them with a billboard. But the KKK didn't end up too pleased with the signage after all. Because Missouri renamed that section of the interstate the "Rosa Parks Highway."

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For more Rosa Parks facts, check out:

The African-American Ladies Who Made a Stand Before Rosa Parks

The Republican Party Honors Rosa Parks By Declaring That Racism No Longer Exists

4 Ways To Make Sure Your Protest Really Makes A Difference

Top image: John Mathew Smith

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