Revealing the Real Rosa Parks

As the U.S. Post Office prepares to release the Rosa Parks stamp on what would have been her 100th birthday, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow digs into a new book about the icon's life before and after she refused to leave her seat.

Posted:
 
rosaparksbillclinton2213575hc
Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Rosa Parks once said that she'd rather be murdered at a young age than be subjugated by her racist countrymen, and that's just one thing most might not know about the woman who refused to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, writes Charles M. Blow in the New York Times.

On the verge of the 100th anniversary of her birth this Monday comes a fascinating new book, "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks," by Jeanne Theoharis, a Brooklyn College professor. It argues that the romanticized, children's-book story of a meek seamstress with aching feet who just happened into history in a moment of uncalculated resistance is pure mythology.

As Theoharis points out, "Rosa's family sought to teach her a controlled anger, a survival strategy that balanced compliance with militancy."

Parks was mostly raised by her grandparents. Her grandfather, a follower of Marcus Garvey, often sat vigil on the porch with a rifle in case the Klan came. She sometimes sat with him because, as the book says she put it, "I wanted to see him kill a Ku Kluxer."

When she was a child, a young white man taunted her. In turn, she threatened him with a brick. Her grandmother reprimanded her as "too high-strung," warning that Rosa would be lynched before the age of 20. Rosa responded, "I would be lynched rather than be run over by them."

Read Charles M. Blow's entire piece at the New York Times.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

Comments
The Root encourages respectful debate and dialogue in our commenting community. To improve the commenting experience for all our readers we will be experimenting with some new formats over the next few weeks. During this transition period the comments section will be unavailable to users.

We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your continued support of The Root.

While we are experimenting, please feel free to leave feedback below about your past experiences commenting at The Root.