The rebellious life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Jeanne Theoharis

Book - 2013

The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement and presenting a corrective to the popular notion of Rosa Parks.

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BIOGRAPHY/Parks, Rosa
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Subjects
Published
Boston : Beacon Press c2013.
Language
English
Physical Description
xvi, 304 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780807076927
0807076929
9780807050477
0807050474
9780807033326
0807033324
Main Author
Jeanne Theoharis (-)
  • National honor, public mythology : the passing of Rosa Parks
  • "A life history of being rebellious" : the early years of Rosa McCauley Parks
  • "It was very difficult to keep going when all our work seemed to be in vain" : the Civil Rights movement before the Bus Boycott
  • "I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed" : Rosa Parks's bus stand
  • "There lived a great people" : the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • "It is fine to be a heroine but the price is high" : the suffering of Rosa Parks
  • "The Northern promised land that wasn't" : Rosa Parks and the Black Freedom struggle in Detroit
  • "Any move to show we are dissatisfied" : Mrs. Parks in the Black Power era
  • "Racism is still alive" : negotiating the politics of being a symbol.
Review by Booklist Reviews

The national narrative on Parks is that of a reluctant champion of civil rights whose single action was refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Historian Theoharis offers a complex portrait of a forceful, determined woman who had long been active before the boycott she inspired and who had an even longer career in civil rights afterward. The image of a quiet seamstress who undermined Jim Crow minimizes Parks' stature as an activist and obscures continued injustice and inequality, Theoharis argues. Drawing on a decade of research, the historian chronicles Parks' personal journey to resistance, her work in the South challenging segregation and promoting voter registration, and her continued efforts in Detroit to address racial restrictions that had ostensibly been resolved by civil rights legislation. Theoharis details the cost of the bus boycott to Parks and her family, including decades of death threats; her strong admiration for radical black activists; and the controversies that continue to surround the disposition of her archival material as factions fight to claim rights to her iconic image. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

In this magnificent, important book, the first truly full-length biography of Rosa Parks, political science professor Theoharis (Brooklyn College-CUNY) restores Parks's rightful place in US history. Stripping away the simplistic, comforting myth of Parks as merely a humble woman who made an impromptu stand that inadvertently put her on history's stage, Theoharis instead presents a Parks who was long committed to racial justice and human rights, both before and long after the Montgomery Bus Boycott that she was so central in initiating and that made her famous. The author is especially effective at following Parks into the decades beyond Montgomery, showing her longstanding commitments while at the same time moving her struggle, which echoed the country's in many ways, from Alabama and the Deep South to Detroit and its deeply embedded northern racial intransigence. Theoharis writes clearly and well, is passionate about her subject, and makes a vital contribution to understanding not only Parks's life and times but also the civil rights movement itself. Few books transform readers' understanding of their topic. This is such a book. Summing Up: Essential. All public and academic levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. D. C. Catsam University of Texas of the Permian Basin Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Theoharis (political science, Brooklyn Coll.) deftly examines the established Parks narrative from myriad pertinent perspectives. She fills gaps in the story of the 1955 Montgomery, AL, bus boycott by illuminating this central character who was no one's pawn, no organization's plant, but a self-aware activist who unknowingly, but gladly, lit the fuse to the keg igniting the civil rights era. Relegated primarily to a symbolic role, Parks nonetheless traveled extensively, spoke eloquently, and worked tirelessly on behalf of civil rights organizations. However, her unwillingness to self-identify as a noteworthy individual had the unfortunate consequence that neither of the groups in whose fundraising she was so intimately involved (the NAACP and the Montgomery Improvement Association) felt emboldened to take much responsibility for the personal and economic fallout Parks and her family suffered as a result of her actions. They moved to Detroit in 1957, where she found ample opportunity to continue her work. Theoharis recounts the fascinating new allies Parks encountered as the years progressed and her politics stayed true. VERDICT This meticulously researched book is for everyone; advanced middle school and beyond.—Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic Univ. Lib., Savannah, GA [Page 96]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

It's time for a big new biography of Rosa Parks, whose refusal to cede a bus seat helped launched the Civil Rights Movement. From the author of four books on civil rights issues. [Page 80]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Theoharis (political science, Brooklyn Coll.) deftly examines the established Parks narrative from myriad pertinent perspectives. She fills gaps in the story of the 1955 Montgomery, AL, bus boycott by illuminating this central character who was no one's pawn, no organization's plant, but a self-aware activist who unknowingly, but gladly, lit the fuse to the keg igniting the civil rights era. Relegated primarily to a symbolic role, Parks nonetheless traveled extensively, spoke eloquently, and worked tirelessly on behalf of civil rights organizations. However, her unwillingness to self-identify as a noteworthy individual had the unfortunate consequence that neither of the groups in whose fundraising she was so intimately involved (the NAACP and the Montgomery Improvement Association) felt emboldened to take much responsibility for the personal and economic fallout Parks and her family suffered as a result of her actions. They moved to Detroit in 1957, where she found ample opportunity to continue her work. Theoharis recounts the fascinating new allies Parks encountered as the years progressed and her politics stayed true. VERDICT This meticulously researched book is for everyone; advanced middle school and beyond.—Jewell Anderson, Armstrong Atlantic Univ. Lib., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In her introduction to this biography, Brooklyn College political scientist Theoharis (coauthor of Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside of the South) notes the common perception of Rosa Parks (1913–2005): "hidden in plain sight, celebrated and paradoxically relegated to be a hero for children." Into that gap, Theoharis submits a lavishly well-documented study of Parks's life and career as an activist. In tracing her work with the Montgomery NAACP and other groups from the 1930s onwards, and then following her move from Alabama after the 1956 bus boycott to Detroit, Theoharis maps a lifetime devoted to civil rights, thereby destabilizing our notions of Parks as a "tired seamstress" who simply kept her seat on a bus one day in 1955. The "iconography of Parks," as Theoharis shows, can be used as an entry point for understanding the broader trends in the historiography of the civil rights movement. She notes how the "national fable" of Parks offers "its untarnished happy ending and its ability to reflect the best possibilities of the United States," thus downplaying more subversive philosophies like the Black Power movement, which Parks also championed. Theoharis calls for a reconsideration of Parks's legacy and of the movement she, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others are responsible for initiating. 16 b&w illus. (Jan.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Examines the historical icon's six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

This definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement. "In the first sweeping history of Parks's life, Theoharis shows us that Parks not only sat down on the bus, but stood on the right side of justice for her entire life.” —Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

2014 NAACP Image Award Winner: Outstanding Literary Work–Biography/Autobiography
 
2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians


Choice Top 25 Academic Titles for 2013

The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement.

This revised edition includes a new introduction by the author, who reflects on materials in the Rosa Parks estate, purchased by Howard Buffett in 2014 and opened to the public at the Library of Congress in February 2015. Theoharis contextualizes this rich material—made available to the public for the very first time and including more than seven thousand documents—and deepens our understanding of Parks’s personal, financial, and political struggles.

Presenting a powerful corrective to the popular iconography of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who with a single act birthed the modern civil rights movement, scholar Jeanne Theoharis excavates Parks’s political philosophy and six decades of activism. Theoharis masterfully details the political depth of a national heroine who dedicated her life to fighting American inequality and, in the process, resurrects a civil rights movement radical who has been hidden in plain sight far too long.