rosa montgomery

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In anticipation of Rosa Park’s birthday on February 4, we found this copy of Freedom Walkers: The Story of Montgomery Bus Boycott (signed by author and historian Russel Freedman). Don’t let the fact that this book was written for young adults fool you into thinking that it isn’t absolutely packed with valuable history. Pictured above are a childhood photo of Claudette Colvin, the 16-year-old who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott by refusing to give up the seat that was legally hers for white passengers; pedestrians boycotting the bus system; Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta King after he was found guilty for leading an “illegal” boycott; and Rosa Parks riding in a newly integrated bus.

Freedman, R. (2006). Freedom walkers: The story of the Montgomery bus boycott. New York: Holiday House.

From the Hipple Young Adult Collection, University of South Florida Libraries

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December 1st 1955: Rosa Parks on the bus

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old black seamstress from Alabama, refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white man. A member of the NAACP, Parks was returning home from a long day at work when the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat on the full bus for a white man. No stranger to civil rights activism, she was subsequently arrested for civil disobedience in defying the state’s Jim Crow racial segregation laws. Through this act of defiance, Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, during which time African-Americans - under the leadership of a young, charismatic reverend called Martin Luther King Jr. - refused to use the city buses, arguing that they should be integrated per the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. The boycott was successful in forcing Montgomery to end its discriminatory segregation laws, and marked the beginning of the main phase of what is now known as the Civil Rights Movement. From Montgomery, African-Americans across the United States went on to lead sit-ins, freedom rides, and political marches, in an attempt to bring an end to segregation laws which had oppressed their community for so long. These activists were all indebted to Rosa Parks - known as the ‘mother of the Civil Rights Movement’ - for her simple act of defiance, firmly asserting her humanity and her rights as an American citizen. As the movement grew, Parks remained an influential symbol and leader of the movement, which ultimately brought an end to legal segregation and forced Congress to pass the 1964 Civil Rights and 1965 Voting Rights Acts. As for Parks herself, the affair of her arrest and the subsequent boycott caused her to lose her job and made her a victim of harassment and threats. She moved to Detriot and in 1965 began to work in the office of Congressman John Conyers. In 1999, Rosa Parks was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for her role in transforming American race relations, and upon her death in 2005 she lay in state at the U.S. Capitol. Today, 60 years on, we remember Rosa Parks’s personal bravery, the successes of the movement she inspired, and the steps yet to be taken as the struggle against systemic racism continues.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day…No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in”

60 years ago today

Rosa Parks, Respectability Politics and Hidden Figures

I love Rosa Parks. In addition to her role in the Civil Rights Movement, she was significantly more rebellious than most journalists, historians and teachers paint her out to be. (I posted a link about this a while ago.)


What most people don’t realize is that, aside from being a rebel, Rosa Parks was actually NOT the first Black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus in the segregated South:

She was the most “marketable.


Long before Park’s resistance was choreographed and written into history, there were many young Black women in Montgomery who refused to surrender their seats to fellow white bus riders (as a result of their own moral conviction), yet whose heroic deeds were obscured by their social and domestic circumstances. Claudette Colvin was arrested a full 9 months before Rosa Parks, yet because she was only 15 years old, from a poor family and spoke with passion (rather than “respectability”) and eventually became a teen mother, she was not deemed “fit” by the NAACP to be the symbol of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

Mary Louise Smith was arrested at the age of 18 a full 2 months before Rosa Parks was booked. Like Colvin, Smith was unable to become the face of the boycott due to her home circumstances: it was rumored that her father was an alcoholic. 


Rosa Parks was chosen because she was from a stable home environment, she was older (and thus seen as more “mature”), employed, and she was perceived to be less rebellious and more demure than the other women.

In a word, Parks was selected to carry the historical torch on behalf of all bus-riding Blacks in Montgomery– and subsequently, the American South– simply because she was more “RESPECTABLE.”


Even then, the POOR, outwardly fierce Black woman was forced to take a back seat to the more marketable, middle-class Black woman. 

Respectability is a dangerous game!!!

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MARTIN LUTHER KING and the MONTGOMERY STORY

Nearly sixty years after its creation, a little-known landmark of comic book history returns! This 16-page comic is a simple but revolutionary account of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which Rosa Parks, Dr. King, and 50,000 others used the power of nonviolence to battle segregation on city buses – and win.

First published in December 1957 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, it went unnoticed by the mainstream comic book industry but spread like wildfire among civil rights groups, churches, and schools, helping to mobilize a generation to join the global fight for equality – nonviolently.

Personally endorsed by Martin Luther King, Jr. himself, over time this comic book has reached beyond his time and place to inspire activists in Latin America, South Africa, Vietnam, Egypt, and beyond… as well as inspiring MARCH, the new graphic novel trilogy by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.

This new fully-authorized digital edition is published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in partnership with Top Shelf Productions. All proceeds go to F.O.R.’s work promoting nonviolence around the world.

(for Rosa Parks, 1913-2005)

People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. No—the only thing I was—was tired of giving in.
—Rosa Parks


i

                            Montgomery, Alabama, 1955

The setting: A rolling box with wheels
The players: Mr. Joe Singleton, Rev. Scott,
               Miss Louise Bennett, Mrs. Rosa Parks,
               Jacob & Junie (fraternal twins, fourteen)

The game: Pay your Indian head to the driver,
    then get off the bus.
    Then, walk to the door at the end of the bus.
    Then, reboard the bus through the Black back door.
    (Then, push repeat for fifty years.)

Sometimes, the driver pulled off,
before the paid-in-full customer
could get to the one open door.

Fed up with buses driving off—without them—
just as her foot lifted up, grazing, the steel step:

She was not a child. She was in her forties.
A seamstress. A woman devoted to
handmade things.

She had grown up in a place:
where only white people had power,
where only white people passed good jobs on
             to other white people,
where only white people loaned money
             to other white people,
where only white people were considered human
             by other white people,
where only the children of white people had new
             books on the first day of school,
where only white people could drive to the store
             at midnight for milk
             (without having to watch the rearview).

ii

A seamstress brings fabric and thread, collars & hems,
buttonholes, together. She is one who knows her way
around velvet.

Arching herself over a river of cloth she feels for the bias,
but doesn’t cut, not until the straight pins are in place,
marking everything: in time, everything will come together.

Nine months after, December 1, 1955, Claudette
Colvin, fifteen, arrested for keeping her seat; before that,
Mary Louise Smith. The time to act, held by two pins.

iii

The Montgomery seamstress waits and waits for
the Cleveland Avenue bus. She climbs aboard,
row five. The fifth row is the first row of the Colored
section. The bus driver, who tried to put her off that day,
had put her off twelve years before. But twelve years
before she was only twenty-eight, still a child to the
heavy work of resistance.

By forty-two, you have pieced & sewn many things
together in segregated Alabama. You have heard
“Nigger Gal” more times than you can stitch your
manners down. You have smelled fear cut through
the air like sulfur iron from the paper mills. The pants,
shirts, and socks that you have darned perfectly, routinely,
walk perfectly, routinely, by you. (Afternoon. How do.)
Those moving along so snug in your well-made, well-sewn
clothes, spit routinely, narrowly missing your perfectly
pressed sleeve.

By forty-two, your biases are flat, your seams are inter-
locked, your patience with fools, razor thin.

By forty-two, your heart is heavy with slavery, lynching,
and the lessons of being “good.” You have heard
7,844 Sunday sermons on how God made every
woman in his image. You do a lot of thinking with
a thimble on your thumb. You have hemmed
8,230 skirts for nice, well-meaning white women
in Montgomery. You have let the hem out of
18,809 pant legs for growing white boys. You have
pricked your finger 45,203 times. Held your peace.

iv

December 1, 1955: You didn’t notice who was
driving the bus. Not until you got on. Later you
would remember, “All I wanted was to get home.”
The bus driver, who put you off when you were
twenty-eight, would never be given the pleasure
of putting you off anything ever again. When he
asks you to move you cross your feet at the ankle.

Well—I’m going to have you arrested.

And you, you with your forty-two years, with your
21,199 perfect zippers, you with your beautiful
nation of perfect seams marching all in place, all
around Montgomery, Alabama, on the backs &
hips of Black & white alike, answer him back,

Well—You may go on and do so.

You are arrested on a Thursday. That night in
Montgomery, Dr. King led the chant, “There
comes a time when people just get tired.” (He
wasn’t quite right, but he was King.) He asked
you to stand so your people can see you. You
stand. Veritas! You do not speak. The indelible
blue ink still on your thumb saying, Enough!
You think about the qualities of velvet: strength
& sway. How mighty it holds the thread and
won’t let go. You pull your purse in close,
the blue lights map out your thumb, blazing
the dark auditorium.

On Courthouse Monday, the sun day dew
sweating the grass, you walk up the sidewalk
in a long-sleeved black dress, your white collar
and deep perfect cuffs holding you high and
starched in the Alabama air. A trim black velvet
hat, a gray coat, white gloves. You hold your
purse close: everything valuable is kept near
the belly, just like you had seen your own mother
do. You are pristine. Persnickety. Particular.
A seamstress. Every thing about you gathered
up and in place. A girl in the crowd, taught not to
shout, shouts, “Oh! She’s so sweet looking! Oh!
They done messed with the wrong one now.”

You cannot keep messing with a sweet-looking
Black woman who knows her way around velvet.
A woman who can take cotton and gabardine,
seersucker and silk, swirl tapestry, and hang
boiled wool for the house curtains, to the very
millimeter. A woman made of all this is never to
be taken for granted, never to be asked to move
to the back of anything, never ever to be arrested.

A woman who believes she is worthy of every
thing possible. Godly. Grace. Good. Whether you
believe it or not, she has not come to Earth to play
Ring Around Your Rosie on your rolling
circus game of public transportation.

A woman who understands the simplicity pattern,
who wears a circle bracelet of straight pins there,
on the tiny bend of her wrist. A nimble, on-the-dot
woman, who has the help of all things, needle sharp,
silver, dedicated, electric, can pull cloth and others
her way, through the tiny openings she and others
before her have made.

A fastened woman
can be messed with, one too many times.

With straight pins poised in the corner
of her slightly parted lips, waiting to mark
the stitch, her fingers tacking,
looping the blood red wale,
through her softly clenched teeth
she will tell you, without ever looking
your way,

You do what you need to do &
So will I.

Nikky Finney, “Red Velvet,” Head-Off & Split (TriQuarterly Books, 2011)

Guys.

I’ll recommend a show to you right now.

I know everyone here is feeling a little empty and can’t really think what to do once Pretty Little Liars ends, but I’ll tell you what: go watch Brooklyn Nine Nine. 

It is a comedy show, so it won’t be like replacing PLL or something, but I know how hard it is to see something you love ending and having something you like to be a kind of consolation is great. And I’ll tell you why you should watch B99:

-Jake Peralta, the protagonist, is portraied by the comedian Andy Samberg. He is a ray of sunshine. He’s sweet, humble, loving, attentive and of course, funny. He is a white-straight-cis-man? Yes, he is. But Jake (and Andy, but I’m talking about the show’s story here) is so much more than that. He isn’t like one of those stereotyped comedy characters. He is a feminist (or a sympathic to the cause, you decide), he grew up clearly on the three existing seasons. He is a man-kid, but at the same time he express his feelings, he respects everyone, he doesn’t make any jokes about minorities and he respect all the people around him. 

-Captain Holt is portraied by Andre Braugher. He is a black, openly gay Captain, who suffered with prejudice his whole career. He finally made Captain of a Precinct, and is ready to be the mentor they all need. At first he seems just like a pain in the ass, but he grow better, showing off his feelings and his fun side along the way. He isn’t like any other black gay character I’ve seen lately, like Tituss (I love him, but it is so stereotyped). His relationship with his husband, Kevin Cozner, is a relationship everyone at the precinct respects and admire.

-Amy Santiago is portraied by Melissa Fumero. She’s a latina woman, but she isn’t like any stereotype of a latina. She’s the most competent detective of the Nine Ninth Precinct, and she is competitive, hard working, but they don’t make her the woman-who-only-works-and-have-no-friends-and-love-life. I won’t spoil anything to you guys, but she have a love life and the whole precinct is friends with her, and they care genuinely about her. She learns through the seasons to embrace her quirks, and she only grows more confident with herself (if you watch it, when you get to 3x05 you’ll definetly get what I’m talking about). She kicks some asses, too.

-Terry Jeffords is portraied by Terry Crews. I’m sure everyone here know Crews, and how easy would be to them make him the strong-black-guy-who’s-too-temperamental-and-has-no-feelings? He is the total opposite of it: He has a beautiful wife, and stopped going on the field because he got scared of getting hurt when his two babies arrived at the world (Cagney and Lacey). He is super sensitive, likes to draw, makes origami, loves yogurt, but he loves working out too. He is the father of the detectives and everyone looks up to his relationship with Sharon Jeffords too.

-Rosa Diaz is portraied by Stephanie Beatriz. Another latina woman, with totally different features of Amy’s. Rosa is a tough woman. She kicks some asses (Amy does too), and she has trouble showing off her feelings. But while she is totally in power of herself, she has all of her friends backs. She loves people in her own way, but she stick to them, no matter what. She opens her heart sometimes, and you can see different layers of her when the time passes. She is made of stone and is very vulnerable at the same time. You can explore her relationship with each one of the squad and is a great experience.

-Gina Linetti is portraied by Chelsea Peretti. She is the most comic character: she loves the attention, and loves saying what she wants to say. But she loves every character and she takes care of everyone when the time comes. You see right at the beggining that she has this huge crush on Terry, but something happens one day and she has to help Terry’s wife, and guess what? She doesn’t? Of course not! If this was another show, maybe, but she actually helps her in all the ways she can, and she actually do a lot. She looks like someone who doesn’t care about anybody, but she loves everyone and when the time passes she learns how to show it.

-Charles Boyle is portraied by Joe Lo Truglio. He is the loving one. He loves everyone at the precinct, and he shows it off. At a point of the show, he is very much in love with someone, but one day he says he’s sorry, because he know he was a bad company to this person, because he was a little too drown on his own feelings. He being a bad company was a bad thing? Yes, it was. But he realized and talked to the person, like adults, and the person forgave him. He is loving and sweet, but he kicks some asses when he needs to. And he embraces himself, he doesn’t feel ashamed for being in touch with his feelings, and no one of the squad makes him feel bad for being who he is.

*All the girls in the show have their own storylines, none of them is resumed just to the male character. They all pass the Bechdel Test.

*When a character confess that it’s in love with another one (not using names to avoid spoiling, again), it isn’t expecting to receive nothing back: it just says so the other know and they are in the clear. You never feel that it is requiring to have it’s feelings returned. It is such a rare thing to see.

*All the sexist and homophobic characters on the show are treated with zero tolerance. They always are repressed and end up paying for what they said/did.

*All the relationships are explored at some point, and is delightful to watch all characters bonding on their own special way.

*Their jokes are funny because they can make humour, not because they make fun of someone who can’t defend themselves.

So, what I’m trying to say is: this is one of the most nonproblematics shows of the world. And it really deserves a shot! So, if you see it, come here or at @are-you-kidding-youre-orangina and talk to me and say what were your thoughts! And if you like it, spread this show around. It is a great one and I hope you guys like it as much as I do!

Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story, an educational comic book published by the Fellowship for Reconciliation, December 1957. Written by Alfred Hassler and Benton Resnik. Artist unknown, though it was apparently drawn by someone from Al Capp’s studio. Note that this cover was signed by both King and his wife.