Spotlight: Rosa Parks-The Orlando Times
Rosa Parks: Mother Of The Movement
BY DEVIN HEFLIN, TIMES STAFF WRITER
The strategic action of a seamstress, the will of a young Baptist preacher and the rallying force of Alabamans all were instruments orchestrated within the symphony of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The Boycott lasted for three hundred and eighty-one days, making Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. the centerpiece of the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks’ enshrinement as the quintessence of protest against the established order.
Contrary to the image of passivity and meekness assigned to Parks by her refusal to give up her seat and her ultimate fingerprint and arrest, Park was active in her community long before cameras arrived.
On June 10, 1940, the world bid farewell to Marcus Garvey. On Christmas Day 1951, Harry T. Moore and Harriet V. Moore lost their lives as a bomb exploded beneath their home. Four years later, Emmitt Till was murdered on August 28, 1955.
These historical instances, not isolated, prompted Rosa Parks to do something.
As a child, Parks stayed up into the night with her grandfather and often held her own shotgun as they defended their home from Klansman. Towards the 1930s and 40s, Parks along with her husband, Raymond, defended the Scottsboro Boys and worked to defend and bring attention to Black women were raped by white men, such as the 1944 case of fellow Alabaman Recy Taylor.
Both her parents and grandparents were strict Garveyites, an appellation appointed to adherents to the tenets of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
The young Parks organized the Youth Council of the Montgomery Branch NAACP.
To understand the Montgomery Bus Boycott, it’s imperative to understand the strategy behind the boycott and the boycott’s key strategists.
Parks had long worked as a field organizer for the Montgomery Branch NAACP, then under the leadership of Rev. E.D. Nixon, longtime activist in Alabama. She wasn’t the first to refuse to give up her seat. Viola White was arrested and beaten by police when she refused to give up her seat on the bus. In 1950, police murdered Hilliard Brooks, a Black World War II veteran who refused to give up his seat. On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin, another Alabaman, refused to give up her seat and was arrested. Parks served as a fundraiser for her legal defense.
Rev. Nixon, an aging member of the clergy, sought to place a younger preacher on the frontlines as the face of the coming movement. Enter Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.
To economically boycott one of the primary drivers of commerce throughout the state of Alabama, Nixon sought a seasoned strategist to sit and refuse to stand, to bring the case nationwide attention and produce mirroring efforts in other Southern states.
Enter then forty-two year old Rosa Parks.
The summer before her calculated arrest, Parks trained and trained others in field organizing classes within the NAACP.
When Dec.1, 1955 arrived, Parks was arrested, and from her arrest and photographed fingerprinting spawned the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the widening of the bargaining table between Dr. King and Montgomery city council members.
Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white man signified her refusal to accept what had gone on, or to accept white racism as commonplace. She challenged it at every turn. She supported Minister Malcolm X and had attended many of his public speeches.
Later in life, she became active with the Black Panthers, attending the Black Power conference and visiting the Black Panther schools in Oakland in 1979. “I’m in favor of any move to show that we are dissatisfied,” she explained.
Rosa Parks was professor of revolutionary science. She worked by day as tailor, but she sowed and hemmed the progress of Black society into a mainstream movement that could not be ignored.