Rosa Parks, Pete Seeger and friends at the Highlander School

December 1, 2014

December 1, 1955, was not an accident of history.  Rosa Parks, often described as “a seamstress,” was college educated, trained as a teacher, and trained in civil rights actions at the Highlander School in New Market, Tennessee.

On this anniversary of Mrs. Parks’s Earth-moving action of civil disobedience, I think back to a photograph taken a couple of years later, at the Highlander School.

It’s a stunning photograph, not for its photographer’s skills, nor the artistic nature of the taking.  It’s a true snapshot.  Five people on a farm in Tennessee, in black and white.  Probably the photographer used a Kodak camera made just for snapshots.

Except, it was 1957.  The farm is the Highlander School.  The five people in the photo include folksinger Pete Seeger, and Rosa Parks, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pete Seeger, MLK , and others at Highlander School, 1957

From left, Martin Luther King, Jr., Pete Seeger, Charis Horton, one of the founders of the Highlander School, Rosa Parks, and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. At a workshop at the Highlander School in Tennessee, circa 1957.

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Who was the photographer?  Perhaps Myles Horton, the director of the school (and Charis’s husband).

In a sort piece filmed at his home in Beacon, New York, for the Highlander’s 75th Anniversary in 2007, Pete described the time and the occasion.

Don’t  you love the cricket singing along with Pete?

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


December 1, 1955: “Why do you push us around?” Rosa Parks asked the cop. (Anyone know the answer?)

December 1, 2014

Mrs. Rosa Parks asked a question of the policeman who arrested her for refusing to move to the back of the bus. In 2014, it’s a chilling question, to which we have no good answer.

Rosa Parks being fingerprinted, Library of Congress

Mrs. Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama; photo from New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress

Rosa Parks: “Why do you push us around?”

Officer: “I don’t know but the law is the law and you’re under arrest.”

From Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed, Quiet Strength
(Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1994), page 23.

Photo: Mrs. Parks being fingerprinted in Montgomery, Alabama; photo from New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress

Today in History at the Library of Congress provides the simple facts:

On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, an African American, was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full. Blacks were also required to sit at the back of the bus. Her arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system and led to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.

Rosa Parks made a nearly perfect subject for a protest on racism. College-educated, trained in peaceful protest at the famous Highlander Folk School, Parks was known as a peaceful and respected person. The sight of such a proper woman being arrested and jailed would provide a schocking image to most Americans. Americans jolted awake.

Often lost in the retelling of the story are the threads that tie together the events of the civil rights movement through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. As noted, Parks was a trained civil rights activist. Such training in peaceful and nonviolent protest provided a moral power to the movement probably unattainable any other way. Parks’ arrest was not planned, however. Parks wrote that as she sat on the bus, she was thinking of the tragedy of Emmet Till, the young African American man from Chicago, brutally murdered in Mississippi early in 1955. She was thinking that someone had to take a stand for civil rights, at about the time the bus driver told her to move to allow a white man to take her seat. To take a stand, she kept her seat.

African Americans in Montgomery organized a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. This was also not unique, but earlier bus boycotts are unremembered. A bus boycott in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, earlier in 1955 did not produce nearly the same results.

The boycott organizers needed a place to meet, a large hall. The biggest building in town with such a room was the Dexter Street Baptist Church. At the first meeting on December 5, it made sense to make the pastor of that church the focal point of the boycott organizing, and so the fresh, young pastor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was thrust into civil rights organizing as president, with Ralph Abernathy as program director. They called their group the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). When their organizing stretched beyond the city limits of Montgomery, the group became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Litigation on the boycott went all the way to the Supreme Court (Browder v. Gale). The boycotters won. The 381-day boycott was ended on December 21, 1956, with the desegregation of the Montgomery bus system.

Sources for lesson plans and projects:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post.  Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Slacktivist, who gave this post a nice plug.


Politician’s phrase went viral, perhaps not as he hoped

November 17, 2014

Mexico’s Attorney General said he’s had enough.

(Reuters) – After weeks fielding questions about the abduction and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by corrupt police in league with drug gang members, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo has had enough.

He’s not the only one.

  Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam listens to a question during a news conference in Mexico City November 7, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Reuters caption: Mexico’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam listens to a question during a news conference in Mexico City November 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Tomas Bravo

Facing a grilling over the details of the case, which has sent shockwaves across Mexico and triggered outrage at impunity, Murillo sought to wrap up a news conference on Friday evening, arching his eyebrows with the aside “Ya me canse”, or “I’ve had enough”.

The phrase came shortly after he told the press that the trainee teachers were apparently incinerated by drug gang henchmen and their remains tipped in a garbage dump and a river.

Murillo’s words have gone viral, with #YaMeCanse and #estoycansado (I’m tired) among the most trending hashtags on Twitter in Mexico.

Protesters who have railed against the government’s handling of the case sprayed the phrase “I’ve had enough .. of fear” on the entrance of the Attorney General’s office overnight.

Many Tweeters said that like Murillo, they were tired – but of impunity, injustice and corrupt politicians.

Some tweeted that if Murillo was so tired, he should resign.

That was over a week ago.

What’s happened since then?

In no particular order:

Protesters at Mexico City's National Palace Pedro Mera/Xinhua/ZUMA. Via Mother Jones

Protesters at Mexico City’s National Palace Pedro Mera/Xinhua/ZUMA. Via Mother Jones

Image from Fox News Latino

Image from Fox News Latino (photo actually prior to Mexico Attorney General’s press conference)

David De La Paz/Xinhua/ZUMA, via Mother Jones

David De La Paz/Xinhua/ZUMA, via Mother Jones

I wonder:

  • Who has had enough?
  • Enough of what?
  • Demonstrations are worldwide; it’s not an Arab Spring, but some of these actions are eerily similar to events in the summer of 1968.  Do we sit on the cusp of significant change?
  • Do parallels exist between the loss of the 43 students in Mexico, and the loss of one man in Ferguson, Missouri?
  • Do these events have any effect on, or are they affected by, education reform efforts in the U.S.?  Other political events in the U.S.?
  • What are we to make of these events?
  • Is this enough? Ya basta? #YaMeCanse?
  • What should we do, individually, and together?
Cartoon by Marent

Cartoon by Marent


54 years ago today, Ruby Bridges went to school

November 14, 2014

American Experience reminds us:

On November 14, 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges walked into William J. Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.

It was just last September 8 we wished Ms. Bridges a happy 60th birthday.  What follows it the post I put up then, happy to have an excuse to repeat historic photos, great art from a great American painter, and remind students of history.  September’s post follows.

You don’t recognize her there?

How about in Norman Rockwell’s illustration?

“The Problem We All Live With,” Norman Rockwell, 1964; oil on canvas, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Ruby Bridges with President Barack Obama, in 2011:

President Obama and Ruby Bridges viewing Normal Rockwall's painting, "The Problem We All Live With," at the White House in 2011. Photo by Pete Souza, public domain.

President Obama and Ruby Bridges viewing Normal Rockwall’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” at the White House in 2011. Photo by Pete Souza, public domain.

Ms. Bridges tells some of her story:


Election Day 2014: Fly your flag, and VOTE!

November 4, 2014

Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879). The County Election, 1852. Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

The County Election, 1852. Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri George Caleb Bingham (American, 1811–1879).  Oil on canvas. 38 x 52 in. (96.5 x 132.1 cm). Gift of Bank of America.

Every polling place should be flying the U.S. flag today.  You may fly yours, too.  In any case, if you have not voted already, go vote today as if our future depends upon it, as if our nation expects every voter to do her or his duty.

Today the nation and world listen to the most humble of citizens.  Speak up, at the ballot box.

Did you notice?  In George Caleb Bingham’s picture, there are no U.S. flags.  You may fly yours anyway.

The whole world is watching.

More:

Yes, this is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. I really like Bingham’s painting.


Early voting opens in Texas: Polling place shenanigans?

October 20, 2014

If you are confronted with voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837)

If you are confronted with voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837)

A friendly reminder from BattleGround Texas:  If you experience voting irregularities at your polling station in Texas, call 1-844-TXVOTES (1-844-898-6837).

Vote early!


Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, 60 today

September 8, 2014

Happy birthday, Ruby Bridges!

You don’t recognize her there?

How about in Norman Rockwell’s illustration?

“The Problem We All Live With,” Norman Rockwell, 1964; oil on canvas, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Ruby Bridges with President Barack Obama, in 2011:

President Obama and Ruby Bridges viewing Normal Rockwall's painting, "The Problem We All Live With," at the White House in 2011. Photo by Pete Souza, public domain.

President Obama and Ruby Bridges viewing Normal Rockwall’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With,” at the White House in 2011. Photo by Pete Souza, public domain.

Ms. Bridges tells some of her story:


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