The long history of a bus ride
Rosa Parks led an inspiring life. Unfortunately, we rarely hear about it. That may sound surprising at a time when Rosa Parks, whose body lay in state in the Capitol on Sunday and Monday, is probably mentioned in every American history textbook and is the subject of dozens of biographies. The problem is that her story is usually presented as a simplistic morality tale that goes like this:
On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks is an ordinary 42-year-old seamstress in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. She leaves work and gets on the Cleveland Avenue bus to go home. When the whites-only section fills up, the bus driver yells at Parks to give up her seat to a white man. She refuses and is arrested. Simply by sitting on a bus, Parks sets off the year-long Montgomery bus boycott that galvanizes national attention, brings Martin Luther King Jr. to the start of his journey as a civil rights leader and creates a model of nonviolent protest against racial segregation.
There's no denying the appeal of this story. But this telling of the tale does a disservice to Parks and twists the history of the civil rights movement. Her story is about more than one bus ride. And the civil rights movement is more than one moment of defiance.
comments powered by Disqus
- T. rex fossils arrive at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
- Quote of the Day -- Time Magazine's Top 100 People
- Investigation: The Resegregation of America's Schools
- 5 Explosive Revelations Leaked from Senate Report Exposing CIA Torture
- In Parts of the South, Glorifying Slavery No Longer Pays the Bills
- UC Berkeley professor emeritus Robert Harlan dies at 84
- She Came All the Way from Melbourne to Attend the OAH
- The 7 Most Popular HNN Videos from the 2014 OAH
- Jesse Lemisch’s up-from-below history is still strikingly original
- U.Va. Historian Alan Taylor Wins 2014 Pulitzer for Book on Slaves and War -- His second Pulitzer!