27 February 2013


The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis

I must say that I was most intrigued by the above book and Professor Theoharis who did the research on Ms. Parks' background.  Viewed her presentation on C-Span where she revealed that this book was just a beginning for scholars in revealing the depth of this woman. It spanned back to the years when she would sit on the porch with her grandfather who held a rifle to protect his family from white terrorists in Alabama.

For some reason I went with the public relations version of her life.  She was described as this soft mannered woman who had finally had enough of getting up to accommodate white folks on public transit. It had been indicated in some articles that she had encountered this once before, however, for some reason it didn't get the attention of the one that catapulted her into the ages. What I found most intriguing was her association with the so-called more radical elements of the civil rights movement as well.  Her understanding of human rights and the importance of  global as well as domestic politics.  As one  who was inspired by Marcus Garvey and his movement to enlighten black folks to look to themselves for empowerment; it was especially noteworthy that her family history reflected that philosophy as well.  The trauma of leaving the south for the north and the struggling years that she and her husband suffered through after the Montgomery Boycott didn't deter her from continuing in the struggle with a focus on young people.  As we are finding out more about this courageous woman--I can't help but wonder if the leadership knew more about her background during the boycott would she have been celebrated as she was.  By that I mean there were stories of other black women standing up to the injustices of segregation and public transit humiliations, however, the civil rights leaders were very careful about whom they designated for this task. A seamstress with a school teacher appearance and quiet elegance trumped the black women who were 'earthy' with questionable reputations. PR was important back then and understandable given what they were trying to do.

It was also noteworthy to me that although she supported Dr. King and his non-violent approach; she believed as many of us in self-defense for she had to stand her ground and took great risks during her formative years in Alabama. This is speculation and I'm entitled to that but it makes sense to me now that other than the marginalization of many women in the movement; she was overshadowed and abandoned by other civil rights icons and pundits for her more radical beliefs and later associations.  Professor Theoharis' "10 Things You Didn't Know About Rosa Parks", highlights this multifaceted  woman and I plan to read the book; not as the final word but a beginning to learn more about this freedom fighter.  A woman of color challenged the professor on the c-span program citing that those who knew more about Ms. Parks are dead and she addressed some of her activism which I'm assuming was passed down.  There was also a book review by Truthdig  and a review by Don Noble that indicated the professor had left out some key players....so the journey continues in revealing that there were far more dimensions to Ms. Rosa Parks and it may be a jolt for some as well as a 'right on' for others.  It will be interesting to see what follows these revelations.

By the way, I wonder how she would feel or what she would say about the statue of her likeness in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. postal stamp with her image. One understands the symbolism of her sitting at the Capitol, however, she was a woman who stood up and faced the consequences of her actions. I must say that I'm thankful that she was around to receive the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. I read that it is usually given to honor military leaders.  She fought a war for many years in the army for the oppressed...Yes....I would say that she certainly deserved it!!
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