The contributors to TNH have an email group, and last night one of us asked if anyone in the group would be writing something on Rosa Parks. It’s an obvious topic for any of us to discuss. But nobody leaped to write it, I suspect because we each wondered what we had to offer that hadn’t already been said, possibly with greater force and passion. A little while ago Meteor Blades alerted us to this excellent piece, Rosa Parks, Misremembered, by Daily Kos diarist jre. MB had thought about writing something, but felt jre’s diary captured the points he wanted to make. It’s true that jre’s diary captured the main points, but as a native Detroiter, I had a few additional thoughts about the life and circumstances of the woman who was probably my hometown’s most famous citizen. Consider this a footnote to jre’s diary.
As jre makes clear, Rosa Parks wasn’t just some simple seamstress who, provoked only by fatigue from work and from Jim Crow, one day refused to relinquish her bus seat for a white man. She had been active in civil rights her entire adult life, and had been arrested years earlier for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. She was far from apolitical; she was very political, and the refusal to give up her seat on the bus was part of a calculated strategy and not the response of a simple woman who acted simply because she was tired.
Growing up I knew a bit about Rosa Parks, and I knew that at
some point after 1955 she had chosen to make
jre rightly emphasizes Rosa Parks’ political sophistication
and commitment. But it’s also important
to recognize something I didn't know until recent years, that Rosa Parks paid personal costs for her political
activism. She came to
It’s important that we remember Rosa Parks for her actions and her commitment. But we also need to remember that her actions came at a cost, one that she paid with dignity and resolve.
In the comments, emptypockets quotes from a great Steve Earle song, and suggests that in the future Rosa Parks will be in the pantheon of American radical heroes mentioned by Earle, which includes Martin Luther King, Woody Guthrie, Emma Goldman, Joe Hill and Malcolm X. Until her true political radicalism is enshrined in song, story and history (even if omitted from textbooks), as an immediate tribute, I haven't seen anything as apt and touching as this morning's cartoon from the great Tom Toles: