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FW: Rosa Parks and Rewriting History

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  • A.J. Wright
    Forwarded from another discussion list with Ms. Schneider s permission...includes several links to Rosa Parks info..aj wright // ajwright@uab.edu ... From:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13, 2000
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      Forwarded from another discussion list with Ms. Schneider's
      several links to Rosa Parks info..aj wright // ajwright@...

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Karen G. Schneider [mailto:kgs@...]
      Sent: Sunday, December 10, 2000 9:50 AM
      To: TOC
      Cc: twa@...
      Subject: Rosa Parks and Rewriting History

      I would guess that many of you on Triumph-Of-Content listen to The Writers'
      Almanac, from Minnesota Public Radio. It is a wonderful gem of a
      contribution to the humanities.

      However, on November 27, I was very disappointed to hear Mr. Keillor
      perpetuate a misreading of history that alters the fabric of our national
      content. From the Almanac for that day:

      "On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her
      bus seat to a white man. She was an assistant tailor at a Montgomery,
      Alabama department store, and a longtime civil rights activist. She often
      walked home from work in order to avoid the segregated buses, but on this
      day she was too tired. A boycott ensued that went on for 381 days: it ended
      segregation on Montgomery's buses, and heralded the start of the modern
      civil rights movement." -- http://almanac.mpr.org/docs/00_11_27.htm

      Tired, my ass! The vaguely sexist and racist myth that "Rosa Parks was
      tired" has been debunked and debunked, so much so that there are even
      personal webpages, such as http://www.grandtimes.com/rosa.html , that
      correct this historical mis-telling. So it is doubly frustrating that a
      prestigious radio program which has done so much to champion unheard voices
      and important points of view would perpetuate this a-historical and damaging

      The historical reality is that Rosa Parks was a longtime civil rights
      activist, and it was a calculated decision by civil rights strategists,
      involving extensive planning, discussion, debate, and strategy, to use Rosa
      Parks in this role. (A particularly good discussion of the background of
      Rosa Parks' action is in Parting the Waters, by Taylor Branch.) Rosa Parks
      was not tired--Rosa Parks was a highly-involved member of the NAACP who was
      fired up by the light of social justice and prepared to make a sacrifice
      fully aware there was no guarantee that her actions that day would be the
      tipping point in the civil rights movement. Walter Mosley uses this bit of
      history to advantage in Workin' On The Chain Gang, where to strengthen his
      argument that change requires hard work and the ability to see beyond the
      horizon, he points out that the success of the Montgomery boycott followed
      many years of near-misses. There is no freeze-dried, presto-chango answer to
      society's problems. Elbow grease, dedication and faith in the unseen are
      the elements of change--that is the message of the story of Rosa Parks.

      Apparently--and thankfully--your typical elementary-school student has a
      better grip on American history than Minnesota Public Radio. See Who is Rosa
      Parks, at http://www.leap.yale.edu/lclc/town/stand/rosa.html , where
      children describe her as "queen mother of the revolution" and "a role model
      for all women of any nationality." Minnesota Public Radio, in correcting the
      record, could do worse than citing this resource. In this letter to TOC and
      to MPR, I ask MPR to restore our faith in their ability get it right, and
      re-tell this history as it really happened.

      Karen G. "Another Uppity Woman" Schneider
      Assistant Director for Technology
      Shenendehowa Public Library, NY
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