MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4: As Americans mark the centennial of Rosa Parks, a new biography is sparking a fresh appreciation of her wisdom, courage and long decades of civil rights activism. Many popular stories about the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” cast Mrs. Parks as an ordinary woman who touched off a bus boycott through her almost accidental moment of stubbornness after a long day of work.
“If we follow the actual Rosa Parks—see her decades of community activism before the boycott; take notice of the determination, terror and loneliness of her bus stand and her steadfast work during the year of the boycott; and see her political work continue for decades following the boycott’s end—we encounter a much different ‘Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,’” writes historian Jeanne Theoharis in The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, published January 29.
New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow praises Theoharis’s book: “Parks, like many other Americans who over the years have angrily agitated for change in this country, had been sanitized and sugarcoated for easy consumption. … Fortunately, this book seeks to restore Parks’s wholeness, even at the risk of stirring unease.”
Wikipedia offers an extensive history (with lots of helpful links and archival photos) about Parks’ long life. She was born February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama, as the daughter of a teacher and a carpenter. Her ancestry was a mix of Cherokee-Creek, African and Scots-Irish. She lept into the global spotlight on December 1, 1955, by refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger. She died in 2005 at age 92. Because of her significant role in American history, she was honored as the 31st person, the first woman and the second black person to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.