Rosa Parks
has passed away. Link via Howard.
ChrisS (mail):
Rest in peace.
10.25.2005 1:51am
Visitor Again:
A very brave warrior in the civil rights struggle. Well done, Rosa!
10.25.2005 8:21am
Per Son:
As the Neville Brothers say, "Thank you Sista Rosa Parks."
10.25.2005 11:13am
Scott Dinsmore (mail):
What will be noteworthy is how the story is now told. In July I met with Fred Gray, her lawyer at the time, in Tuskeegee, Alabama. He's 75 and still practicing law -- was 25 at the time and one of only 3 Black lawyers in the state. One of my students asked him to verify conflicting stories told about the event -- planned or tired? Was she more of an activist or an old seamstress?

Gray suggested that once she passed he'll publicize their conversation from lunch the day she was arrested.

Hopefully more to come to understand the significance of her action and the "start" of the movement. (Many say her husband began involvement with the Scotsboro Boys trial and socialist organizing, and then the NAACP. She was the chapter secretary for 12 years before the '55 boycott.)
10.25.2005 11:40am
Scott Dinsmore (mail):
OK, I'm not so original. The link from the Detroit Free Press which Orin gave is a good history and includes:

For years it has been erroneously reported that Parks refused to give up her seat in 1955 because she was tired from working all day.

Although it is true that she was heading home from her work as a seamstress in a downtown Montgomery department store, it was not tired feet that made her remain seated on the bus.

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day.- … No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

And references her previous work in the NAACP - which for a while was banned in the state of Alabama.
10.25.2005 11:47am
Per Son:
She had been involved in civil rights issues from the early 40s. Her being tired is stuff of legend like chopping cherry trees and the Betsy Ross making the first flag story.
10.25.2005 11:58am
magoo (mail):
Why can't someone be a seamstress AND an activist? Sounds to me like she was tired. But tired or not, she was COURAGEOUS. Goodnight, sweet princess, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
10.25.2005 12:06pm
Byomtov (mail):
Amen to Magoo.

Tiredness is irrelevant. Courage matters.

And anyone who doesn't think it took enormous courage to do what she did has zero grasp of Alabama in the 50's.

Why can't someone be a seamstress AND an activist?

Exactly. The people who stood and demanded their rights were not, by and large, lawyers, doctors, and engineers. They were seamstresses, janitors and laborers.
10.25.2005 1:04pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Going to public school in Mississippi in the 1980s and 90s, I of course learned NOTHING about Rosa Parks, segregation, etc.

American history ended after World War II.

Does anyone educated outside the South have a comparison to offer with their high-school education?

I continue to be woefully ignorant on the civil rights era, having seen some shocking examples in Halberstam's The Fifties and Manchester's The Glory &the Dream. Any one-volume recommendations? Is Parting the Waters a good one?
10.25.2005 1:13pm
David M. Nieporent (www):

While I have no doubt that the teaching of racial issues in Mississippi was influenced by politics, I wouldn't read too much into that specific fact. Going to school in Maryland in the 1980s, in a very liberal, very PC environment (the sort of place which took "Black History Month" seriously and taught us all the First Woman/Black/Etc. To Do X and taught us how the Iroquois were the basis for the U.S. Constitution), we still didn't get much past WWII.
10.25.2005 1:28pm
Byomtov - Because it makes a better story if she's an everywoman Average Jane that, in a moment of selfless courage, bucked the whole system and in 20 minutes flat, single-handedly crushed an entire oppressive empire. That's not really how it happened, but that's the story that is taught (or at least that I was taught in school). It's disconcerting to learn that you were taught a fabrication. It feels manipulative.

That said, she's still a very brave woman and deserves endless respect.
10.25.2005 1:34pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Thanks, DMN. I'm sure there's a general tendency to avoid recent history as "too controversial" (= "too likely to lead to angry parents heckling the school board").

Very unfortunate for the students, of course, who if they learn anything, absorb their parents' prejudices. (Like my friend who accepted on faith that LBJ was the worst president ever, and had never even been elected to the presidency.)
10.25.2005 3:35pm
wendy (mail):
I am a seamstress. i am white. i am an activist. i am 40. i am about to finish a master's degree. I paid my tuition at the sewing machine.

I am regularly discredited because of my profession. I am fortunate to be strong enough to rise above the views society has about women who sit at sewing machines to make their living.

And Rosa was strong enough to keep sitting.

History wants to treat her as an anomoly. talk to a seamstress sometime. They know what it is to be a lower form of life but the always work with dignity. Like Rosa.
10.31.2005 7:11pm