The Long History of a Bus Ride - New York Times

Before we come to the link - the "quotation of the day" in today's NYT is:

"I can honestly say that without Mrs. Parks, I probably would not be standing here today as secretary of state."
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, at a memorial service for Rosa Parks.

And now look at this: The Long History of a Bus Ride - New York Times

The beginning of this text:

ROSA PARKS led an inspiring life. Unfortunately, we rarely hear about it.

That may sound surprising at a time when Rosa Parks is probably mentioned in every American history textbook and is the subject of dozens of biographies. The problem is that her story is usually presented as a simplistic morality tale. It is a paint-by-the numbers picture of virtue that goes like this:

On Dec. 1, 1955, Mrs. Parks is an ordinary 42-year-old seamstress in downtown Montgomery, Ala. She leaves work and gets on the Cleveland Avenue bus to go home. When the whites-only section fills up, the bus driver yells at Mrs. Parks to give up her seat to a white man. She refuses and is arrested. Simply by sitting on a bus, Mrs. Parks sets off the year-long Montgomery bus boycott that galvanizes national attention, brings the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the start of his journey as a civil rights leader and creates a model of nonviolent protest against racial segregation.

There's no denying the appeal of this story - her body began lying in honor in the Capitol yesterday. But this telling of the tale does a disservice to Mrs. Parks and twists the history of the civil rights movement. Her story is about more than one bus ride. And the civil rights movement is more than one moment of defiance. The focus on Rosa Parks leads to the neglect of other civil rights pioneers who did far more to shape history.


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