Rosa Parks Sit Down to Stand Up for Freedom Day, December 1: “Why do you push us around?” Rosa Parks asked the cop. (Anyone know the answer?)

December 1, 2016

Mrs. Rosa Parks asked a question of the policeman who arrested her for refusing to move to the back of the bus on December 1, 1955. In 2016, it is again, and still, 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.

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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.

12,346

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.


Pete Seeger and the Highlander School

January 28, 2014

It’s a stunning photograph, not for its photgrapher’s skills, nor the artistic nature of the taking.  It’s a true snapshot.  Five people on a farm in Kentucky, 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 Kentucky, circa 1957.

12,346

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:


History resources: Rosa Parks’s arrest records

February 25, 2013

Maria Popova at Exp.lore.com suggested some tools for teachers, about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

The arrest records of Rosa Parks. Pair with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance. 

Fingerprint sheet from the arrest of Rosa L. Parks, in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955.

The arrest records of Rosa Parks. Pair with Susan Sontag on courage and resistance.

Popova’s suggestion of Sontag’s piece — which is available at Popova’s site — lends depth to this assignment frequently lacking in high schools. The other link Popova offers takes us to the National Archives and their great bank of classroom materials, including a few more documents from the incident:  “Teaching from Documents:  An Act of Courage, The Arrest Records of Rosa Parks.

I like to use these materials around the anniversary of Parks’s arrest on December 1, which is out of sequence for the civil rights movement and a couple of months before Black History Month.  I find it useful to talk about events on the anniversary of the events, especially to give students more than one pass at the material in class, and also to link whatever is being studied in sequence at that moment (often the Civil War in Texas classrooms) with later events, and current events, as a view in to the web of interlinked occurrences that really make up history.  (Yes, I’m an advocate of dropping the name “Black History Month” and teaching it throughout the year; though a Black Heritage Appreciation Month is a help.)

Modern students seem to me to be particularly ill-informed on current events.  Far too many of them do not read newspapers, not even the comics.  This makes more important the classroom linking of past events with current events that students don’t know about, or fail to recognize the significance.

More, and other resources:

1955 Highlander Center workshop, showing Rosa Parks

Summer 1955: Desegregation workshop at Highlander Research and Education Center. Highlander Center caption:  Rosa Parks is at the end of the table. Six months later, her actions sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. [Who are the other people pictured?]


Sketches from the Chicago Teacher Strike: Rosa Parks

September 17, 2012

There’s a little bit of fantasy here, but probably not too much.

Rosa Parks on Chicago Teacher Strike, art from Fred Klonsky

It coulda happened, right?

Drawing by Fred Klonsky, from his blog.

So, is the Chicago Teacher Strike illegal?  If so, why — and is it just that working people not be allowed to strike for the benefit of the students?


Paying homage to civil rights pioneers: Remembering Rosa Parks’ courage

April 20, 2012

President Obama, sitting on the bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 - White House photo by Pete Souza

President Obama, sitting on the bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955 - White House photo by Pete Souza.

In USA Today (via The Detroit Free Press), reporter David Jackson described the event:

When President Barack Obama went to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn on Wednesday, he got to visit one of the shrines of the civil rights movement that helped lead to the nation’s first African-American president.

Rosa Parks’ bus.

Obama described a moving scene to supporters later that morning.

“I actually had the chance to sit in Rosa Parks’ bus,” Obama said. “I just sat there for a moment and pondered the courage and tenacity that is part of our very recent history, but is also a part of that long line of folks — sometimes nameless, oftentimes didn’t make the history books — but who constantly insisted on their dignity, their stake in the American Dream.”

Parks’ refusal to move to the back of that bus on Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Ala., led to her arrest, which led to a bus boycott by African Americans, which led to the creation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which led to the elevation of a young minister named Martin Luther King Jr.

Eventually came the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and an ongoing sea change in American race relations that includes the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

Said Obama at another stop: “It takes ordinary citizens to bring about change, who are committed to keep fighting and keep pushing, and keep inching this country closer to our highest ideals.”

More, and Resources:


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