Rosa Parks's papers and photos online at the Library of Congress

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If you are ever in Montgomery, AL, go to the Rosa Parks Museum. It is SO good.

And yes, she knew exactly where on the bus to sit. She legally did not have to move, but it was expected. It’s quite clear that she deliberately sat in that zone, as a habit, waiting for the right moment to protest being asked to move.


Not to completely detract from Mrs. Parks role but I just wish I would see some genuine attention paid to Claudette Colvin and her struggle which, in many ways, was worse than Rosa Parks.

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I ddn’t recognize her name, but I think generally more in deoth writings about the periid acknowledge Claudette Colvin, though perhaps not by name. I certainly knew that there had been an earlier case.

I’d also point out that this was such a big push that there was big fear that “the other side” would demolish things with peripheral issues, so there was a conservatism to the protest. Somewhere I saw a list of how participants to a certain protest were supposed to dress and act, and they were supposed to sign an agreement. Besides, a lot if it was organized around church, so that probably added a certain level of morality to it.

In some ways, this is why non-violence was chosen. That’s not completely true, since people like James Farmer, Bayard Rustin and Jim Peck were pacifists who sat out WWII in prison. These and others were key players a bit later in the civil rights movement, and they brought non-violence.
But, nevertheless, as a tactic non-violence ensured that all the violence was on “on the other side”, which had to influence public opinion. Violence makes it murky.

And while Rosa’s popular story is of someone “just tired”, she was ready to push. For someone younger who happened to be too tired, would the outcome have worked the same? The Bus Boycott was huge, that perhaps wouldn’t have been the case earlier.

Note that later it was the norm, lots of people taking initiative, because others already had.

But this is the story of the civil rights movement. The Big Names, usually the great speakers, are known by the public, while plenty of others aren’t known. Take any event, and there’s likely someone “smaller” who had greater importance.

One important thing is that they had so much power that they could give it away. Rosa Parks didn’t make a big speech, urging something or other, she broke the law and stood up to it, in essence saying “I can do this, and you can too”. By her actions, others stepped over the line, overcoming the imagined or real fear of standing up, so there was a big enough mass to change things. There was a lot of fear, for good reason, and a trickle wasn’t good enough. But it wasn’t people being led, a mass doing the commands of a leader, it was people saying “John Lewis stood up to all that power and violence, I can do it too”.

And that’s what changed things, people deciding they wanted a different life, a different world, and standing up to power.

At the museum, there is a whole timeline of protests on public transport going back over a century before Rosa Parks’ bus ride. It was interesting to learn that this was an ongoing area of activism. There was one case where a black man who could pass as white bought a ticket to ride a train then revealed himself as actually black.

Yes, there were a few cases right before hers that were very close to breaking as big as hers did, but they could not get the person who had charges against them to take the risks Ms. Parks did of entering into the legal battle.

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In Nashville, and probably other cities, they’ve installed these plaques on certain buses. I like it that it’s only certain buses. The fact that you never know whether you’re going to see it or not is an interesting tribute to her memory.


That’s so good. Love it.

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