December 1st – Rosa Parks Day

Fifty five years ago today, Rosa Parks got herself booted off a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, some say deliberately, sparking the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement and leading to millions of citizens of this country, including me, being able to sit anywhere they please on public transportation.  Go Rosa!

While Rosa is credited with this moment, which is viewed passively –  in terms of what she did not do, the faces and the stories of the very active Civil Rights Movement are largely male- generating a spotlight for men who would go on to become big names and players on the national scene and in history – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Reverend Ralph Abernathy, to name a few.

Danielle McGuire’s book At The Dark End of the Street, which is excellent by the way, paints an even more feisty and, if it’s possible, even more inspiring portrait of Rosa Parks as a radical activist in the Civil Rights Movement, a skilled investigator into the sexual exploitation of black women by white men.  Rosa was so fierce that her activities had to be toned down so that she could become the unassailable figurehead and symbol used to galvanize people into action regarding civil rights for blacks in the United States.

In the  Thanksgiving Edition of the Underground Literary Society, Amy and I talked about the myth making surrounding the history of our country, and speculated on whether it would be better to be more honest  about our past as we indoctrinate our children into it. It’s amazing to me the sheer amounts of innocuous “history”  that I learned that later pops out with fangs and teeth.

Rosa Parks was smart, fearless, and at the vanguard of amazing change.  It makes me a little sad that for the most part she is defined as a woman whose role was solely, not to  stand up.  As tremendous as that was in time when such acts could end in emotional abuse, physical violence or death, she was so much more, as were so many other women whose contributions to the Civil Rights Movement are not recognized because of the patriarchy in effect at the time – patriarchy that is still a controlling factor in the way history is interpreted and presented.

The Civil Rights Movement was a success because of the leadership of many, and many were women.  And one such leader was Rosa Parks. Just sayin’.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Dracula In Love, by Karen Essex – Book Review

I am so grateful to have learned more about Rosa.  Can you think of others whose histories are incomplete?  What would you want people to know about them?

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  1. “Go, Rosa” is right! I cannot for the life of me wonder why we would ever want to mince words and be gentle about the history of any country. In order for future generations to learn, honesty in history is the only path to take. It worries me when I think about the true situations that occurred in the world, and how it’s been glossed over, or under-appreciated, or slighted in any way.

    And to be honest, I feel as though Malcolm X was viewed inaccurately in history — people felt he was an aggressive man, but when I think about it, I also would protect my family from danger “by any means necessary.” It’s too bad that people lump that quote in as a representation of violence, especially when I think any one of us would be and feel, the exact same way.

  2. I thought I had heard that Rosa was much more radical than ever presented. I’d like to get to know more about this amazing woman. And while I agree it is a little sad she’s known only for “not standing up” I think it’s an incredible lesson on the power of one big “small” thing. Whenever I want to give my kids a lesson on what one person can do I refer to Miss Parks, who stood for so many by “not standing up”.

    Thanks for reminding me about today and thanks for letting me know about this book. I can’t wait to read it.

  3. Rosa Parker was also a volunteer secretary for the Montgomery branch of the NAACP. The bus boycott had been in the works for along time – the organizers were waitng for a well respected woman in the community to “Take a stand.” An excellent book about the Montgomery bus boycott is “The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It.” It is one of my reference books when I teach the Civil Rights Movement.

  4. I’m reading The Mental Floss History of the United States and finding that it’s quite a shock to learn all the inaccurate history I swallowed because . . . well, that’s what we were fed. It’s amazing.

  5. My father’s book, Count Them One By One, about his work with brave civil rights activists in Hattiesburg, MS, depicts brave women as well as brave men. My favorite is Eloise Hopson, a feisty graduate of Spelman College who was infuriated at being told she had failed the “reading” test to register to vote and told the Dept of Justice lawyers she would not be browbeaten when she testified in court about her experiences. And she most certainly wasn’t!

    Here is a recent interview about the book:

  6. It’s sad how Rosa Parks is portrayed in most history books. Most kids grow up not knowing how involved she was in the struggle and the important role she played. Hopefully we can start spreading the word and correct the history for future generations!