In general, sociologists say, most of us have friends who are like us. We might have a few close acquaintances who are richer, a few who are poorer, and a few of different races—but, on the whole, our deepest relationships tend to be with people who look like us, earn about the same amount of money, and come from similar backgrounds. Parks’s friends, in contrast, spanned Montgomery’s social and economic hierarchies. She had what sociologists call “strong ties”—firsthand relationships—with dozens of groups throughout Montgomery that didn’t usually come into contact with one another. “This was absolutely key,” Branch said. “Rosa Parks transcended the social stratifications of the black community and Montgomery as a whole. She was friends with field hands and college professors.” And the power of those friendships became apparent as soon as Parks landed in jail.
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