Behind the Legend of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks has been an iconic symbol of the civil rights movement–a woman who refused to give up her seat to a white man, thus sparking the Montgomery bus boycott and the modern black freedom struggle. But we have all but forgotten the real Rosa Parks–a militant activist, who worked for decades on issues of social justice–both before the bus boycott that made her famous–and years after. How many people know, for example, that Rosa Parks believed in armed self-defense? Who knew that her grandfather was a Garveyite who believed strongly in black pride and black nationalism? How many of you know that Parks was a fan of Malcolm X and Robert F. Williams, the militant NAACP president from Monroe, NC? Did you know that she was an anti-rape activist years before the Women’s Movement? And that she helped launch the Detroit  Free Joan Little campaign in 1975, 20 years after the bus boycott? I wonder how our understanding of both Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement as a whole would change if we started talking about this Rosa Parks, and not the tired seamstress with tired feet that we meet in most US history textbooks?

The Detroit Free Press ran an incredible piece on the book on Sunday. Here’s the link to the article in case you missed it. I’m so grateful for the coverage and for the wonderful comments I’ve received about the book. In fact, the press has actually led many individuals to contact me and share their stories from the segregated South–some brutal and painful; some incredible testimonies of courage and drive; and just some friendly encouragement. I welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing more.