Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Viv Sanders puts an inspiring figure, and an important event, into historical perspective.
Death of an Icon
The recent death of 92-year-old Rosa Parks reminded people throughout the world of the great civil rights movement of mid-20th-century America. In the years after her refusal to give up her seat for a white man triggered off the Montgomery Bus Boycott, she became an icon. In that process, however, some essential truths about the significance of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott were lost.
There are several controversies relating to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Firstly, some books written for younger children suggest that she was a tired old lady who, after a hard day’s work, just could not take having to give up her seat. Such books suggest that her refusal to give up her seat was a spontaneous action. Secondly, many historians’ studies suggest that the Montgomery Bus Boycott was the first time that a black community had mobilised to oppose segregation. Some see the boycott as the start of the civil rights movement. Thirdly, many writers and readers either give or have the impression that Rosa Parks was the only, or at least the most important, female figure in the black struggle for civil rights. This article takes issue with these three contentions.
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