Rosa Parks: Myth Debunked and Explained

Christmas knitting is almost finished (obviously not photos yet). Reading continues.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Theoharis engages in important myth debunking even while she traces the growth of the dangerous myth. The danger is that in losing site of the real person’s ongoing actions against systemic racism, the symbol portrays a safe past action and a finished project and opens the door to blaming individual responsibility. This is a very readable biography, mostly chronological, but also thematic.

After an exploration of Parks’s family and youth, the myth of the tired seamstress is questioned and Parks’s strength, determination, and anger are explored. But the beginning of the myth in its strategic use at the time is also explored. And with the bus boycott’s ending, the book is only midway. She did more, who knew? Her life in Detroit allows for exploration of the form racism has in the north. Especially interesting is the chapter on Parks’s relationship to the Black Power movement: “Mrs. Parks’s political activities and associations in 1960s and 1970s Detroit illustrate the continuities and connections between the civil rights and Black power movements” (203).

A very important book.

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2 responses to “Rosa Parks: Myth Debunked and Explained

  1. Interesting, as children’s books continue to spread the myth.

  2. OK, the myth had a purpose at the time, and I had read elsewhere that it was somewhat fabricated to “explain” her action. However, I didn’t know she went on to do other things. Good point that stopping t her seat on the bus makes the whole thing sound finished, which it isn’t yet!

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