Famous no’s in history

Beautiful someone, “no” can change the world.
In fact, sometimes it’s the only thing that does.


Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, 42-year-old Rosa Parks stepped onto a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on the way home from a long day of work. She paid her fare and took a seat. Contrary to many accounts of exactly what happened that day, when a white passenger demanded that she give up her seat because the whites-only section was full, she refused not because she was tired from a long day of work (though she was), but because she was tired of being treated this way. “The only tired I was,” she wrote in her autobiography many years later, “was tired of giving in.”

Her quiet but firm refusal to give up her seat and her subsequent arrest for this simple act of civil disobedience sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In appealing the arrest, Rosa Parks spoke truth to power and openly challenged the legality of segregation. The boycott lasted 381 days and in the end, this simple no, one refusal by one person one day in history, led to a December 1956 Supreme Court ruling that segregation was unconstitutional, and the Montgomery buses were integrated.

One no began an irrepressible movement for freedom and equality.

        Related: How to Set Healthy Boundaries: 10 Examples + PDF Worksheets

The Boston Tea Party

In September 1773, seven ships carrying East India Company tea left England bound for the American colonies. Four of the ships were headed to Boston. The other three were going to New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. At the time, opposition among the colonists to Britain’s many unfair laws and ever-increasing taxes had begun to mount.

The ships that arrived in New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston were turned away. In Boston, however, the story was different. Three of the four ships (the fourth had been lost in a wreck off Cape Cod) arrived and were moored at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston Harbor. Since unloading the tea would trigger the tea tax due on the shipments, the ships just sat there for weeks.

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In an act of treason punishable by death, at 7 pm on December 16, 1773, 200 colonists boarded the ships, smashed open all 340 crates of the very expensive tea, and dumped it into the water. The event, dubbed by history as the Boston Tea Party, sparked ongoing revolts that would lead to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, effectively the start of the American Revolution.

In 1773, the American colonists said no on a cold winter night and set the stage for the birth of a nation.


David and Goliath

In a Bible story referenced in everything from ancient literature to modern business and culture, when the Philistine army gathered for war against Israel, one small, young teenager said no, right into the face of a giant.

As the Philistines and the Israelites camped out on opposite sides of a steep valley, the entire Israelite army was terrified of the menacing nine-foot-tall Philistine giant, Goliath. Young David, however, refused to accept likely defeat at the hands of the giant, and willingly faced his fully armored foe with nothing but a slingshot and five river stones.

The story goes that David’s father sent him to skulk along the battle lines and bring back news of what was happening. It was there that David heard the menacing taunts of the giant. Angered by Goliath’s brashness, David volunteered to fight him, even though it seemed like a death wish to everyone else. He approached the giant, and as Goliath hurled insults at him, David reached into his bag and slung a single stone at Goliath’s head, felling the giant in one blow. When the Philistines saw their devastating loss, they turned tail and ran, pursued by the opposing army for many miles.


If no can champion civil rights, start a revolution that creates a nation, and topple a terrifying giant, just imagine what it can do for your life and everyone in it.