The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

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The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Nell Irvin Painter
…Theoharis shows in her insightful biography…[that] Parks was not an apolitical, middle-aged lady whose fatigue kept her seated. Both shy and militant, she was a committed activist enmeshed in racial politics—and their class and gender complications—wherever she lived…Richly informative, calmly passionate and much needed, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks completes the portrait of a working-class activist who looked poverty and discrimination squarely in the face and never stopped rebelling against them, in the segregated South and in the segregated North.
Publishers Weekly
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.)
From the Publisher
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks will undoubtedly be hailed as one of the most important scholarly contributions to civil rights history ever written. … I can’t wait to assign this book in every class I teach.”—Melissa Harris-Perry, host, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry

“Theoharis brings all of her talents as a political scientist and historian of the civil rights movement to bear on this illuminating biography of the great Rosa Parks.”—Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"Charisma is not a word often used to describe Rosa Parks yet we have to recognize her star. The Rosa Parks challenge to the political system was deep and lasting even while she never raised her voice. The first female Speaker of the House of Representatives once said, 'You can get a lot done if you don’t need to take credit for it.' She took a page from the book of Parks. Theoharis’ scholarship brings forth a woman whom many followed without ever realizing they were. She was courageous and strong. She also had a wonderful sense of humor. And an awesome sense of responsibility. This is a much needed book on the woman who is, arguably, the most important person in the last half of the twentieth century. Just as the Lincoln Memorial needs a statue of Frederick Douglass gently bending over with a pen in his hand for Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. needs a statue of Rosa Parks just one or two steps ahead mouthing the words: 'Come on, Dr. King. We’ve got work to do.'"
—Nikki Giovanni, Poet

“How Theoharis learned the true nature of this woman is a story in itself. Parks always stood in the background, never volunteered information about herself and eschewed fame. There were no letters to consult; even her autobiography exposed little of the woman’s personality. She hid her light under a bushel, and it has taken an astute author to find the real Parks. Even though her refusal to give up her bus seat sparked a revolution, Rosa Parks was no accidental heroine. She was born to it, and Theoharis ably shows us how and why.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“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.”
Booklist

"Theoharis submits a lavishly well-documented study of Parks’s life and career as an activist.”
Publishers Weekly

"Verdict: This meticulously researched book is for everyone; advanced middle school and beyond.”
—Library Journal 

 

Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
Theoharis (Political Science/Brooklyn Coll.; co-author: Not Working: Latina Immigrants, Low-Wage Jobs, and the Failure of Welfare, 2006, etc.) has discovered the soul of Rosa Parks (1913–2005), and it's not that of a docile, middle-age seamstress. The author successfully goes "behind the icon of Rosa Parks to excavate and examine the scope of her political life." Parks learned to stand up for her rights as a child; she never backed down from black or white, rich or poor when she knew she was right. She began working for civil rights early in her life and was the first secretary of the Montgomery NAACP in 1947. She also wasn't the first to refuse to relinquish her seat on the bus, but the strength of her character and a push too far by the local police made her the poster child for the struggle. Her arrest was the impetus for what began as a one-day Montgomery Bus Boycott. That, in turn, united the black population, which had been deeply divided by class and education. While her refusal wasn't planned in advance, the bus boycott was no spontaneous action. Parks continued to work for equality after she and her husband moved to Detroit, where racism was as bad, if not worse, as that in the South. How Theoharis learned the true nature of this woman is a story in itself. Parks always stood in the background, never volunteered information about herself and eschewed fame. There were no letters to consult; even her autobiography exposed little of the woman's personality. She hid her light under a bushel, and it has taken an astute author to find the real Parks. Even though her refusal to give up her bus seat sparked a revolution, Rosa Parks was no accidental heroine. She was born to it, and Theoharis ably shows us how and why.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807050477
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 1/29/2013
  • Pages: 360
  • Sales rank: 628,429
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    New York Times Op Ed. review excerpt. Rosa Parks, Revisited By

    New York Times Op Ed. review excerpt.
    Rosa Parks, Revisited By CHARLES M. BLOW
    Published: February 1, 2013
    Most of what you think you know about Rosa Parks may well be wrong.

    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.”

    One of the most troubling and possibly most controversial scenes in the book occurs when Rosa is a young woman working as a domestic. A white man whom she calls “Mr. Charlie” tries to sexually assault her. Determined to protect herself, she taunts him as she evades him, haranguing him about the “white man’s inhuman treatment of the Negro.”

    “How I hated all white people, especially him,” she continued. “I said I would never stoop so low as to have anything to do with him.”

    Parks added that “if he wanted to kill me and rape a dead body, he was welcome but he would have to kill me first.”

    The author points out that although the story is recorded in Parks’s own handwriting, it isn’t clear whether it’s completely true, half true or just allegory.. ..

    When Parks died in 2005, Theoharis says, “The Rosa Parks who surfaced in the deluge of public commentary was, in nearly every account, characterized as ‘quiet.’ ‘Humble,’ ‘dignified,’ and ‘soft-spoken,’ she was ‘not angry’ and ‘never raised her voice.’ ”

    Parks, like many other Americans who over the years have angrily agitated for change in this country, had been sanitized and sugarcoated for easy consumption.

    As Theoharis writes: “Held up as a national heroine but stripped of her lifelong history of activism and anger at American injustice, the Parks who emerged was a self-sacrificing mother figure for a nation who would use her death for a ritual of national redemption.”

    Fortunately, this book seeks to restore Parks’s wholeness, even at the risk of stirring unease.

    The Rosa Parks in this book is as much Malcolm X as she is Martin Luther King Jr.

    ....
    ..

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2014

    Nice book

    Mrs.rosa parks was a good women i dont see y they put here in jail

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Abby

    My name is abby and i have this book in paper it is very interesting. I really LOVE this book!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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