Woman on the Bus (the real story)
Please join us in recognizing Black History Month through books, films, music, online courses and discussion groups. We started with Rosa Parks. The image of the Black seamstress’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus is burnished in American history, yet Rosa Parks was no accidental heroine. Her contribution to the civil rights movement was not defined by a single bus ride, but six decades of activism in a nation founded on “liberty and justice for all.”
As author and scholar Jeane Theoharis notes in “The Real Rosa Parks Story is Better than the Fairy Tale” (New York Times, 2-1-21), Parks’ decision on that bus ride inspired a successful year-long boycott of Montgomery, Alabama’s segregated buses. In 1956, the courts indicted Parks and nearly 90 boycott leaders based on old “anti-syndicalism” laws. She recalled that day in a rare radio interview (Pacifica Radio/Democracy Now).
Before her arrest, Parks had already devoted 20 years to work with the NAACP. During the boycott, she received death threats, lost her job, and was forced to leave Montgomery. Undeterred, she participated in the Selma March and the March on Washington DC in 1963. Mrs. Parks paid a heavy price in the exercise of her rights as an American and kept going.
In her words, “Freedom fighters never retire.” She never did.
You can read about Parks’ lifetime of activism and impact on civil rights in Theoharis’ book, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.”
This book draws upon on over 7,000 documents from the Rosa Parks estate, purchased by Howard Buffett (2014) and made publicly accessible at the Library of Congress (2015). Theoharis’ book deepens our understanding of Parks’ personal, financial, and political struggles.
Her companion book, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Young Readers’ Edition” with Brandy Colbert, is a fitting tribute to Parks outreach to youths to engage them in learning and activism.
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