The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks book review

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Rosa Parks was born in 1913 in Alabama. Theories described her parents as “driven and accomplished.” Her mother was a teacher before giving birth to her, and her father was a stonemason. Sylvester was Rosa’s youngest brother. Notably, her father relocated in search of jobs, forcing him to live apart from his relatives. Rosa’s mother went to live with her parents as a result. Rosa, who lived with her grandmother as well as her great-grandfather, was intrigued by the new arrangement. Her grandfather was the son of a slave and a slave owner. In comparison to most blacks, his skin color was lighter. However, this did not guarantee him a better life as he still grew up in bondage. The harsh conditions of life forced him to develop an aggressive character against the whites as he continually witnessed the bigotry of the white race toward people of his race.

A lot of people as well as school children, know the story of the role Rosa played in the civil rights movement. However, the most dominant image of Rosa Parks for most Americans is that of a black woman who is quite tired and refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Importantly, Rosa’s story is an act of disobedience of the bus driver’s order to most listeners to move to the back of the bus, while her arrest for this act of defiance, shows most of us as unjust. Rosa Park’s arrest leads to one of the most consequential acts of the early civil rights movement. In effect, it leads to a boycott of the Montgomery city buses. The boycott was done by people of the African American community for at least a year. Thus, in Theoharis’ book, he attempts to erase the image of Rosa as a tired lady who “could not take it anymore” and adequately describe her views and political background. Rosa Parks’ image has been brightened as she has been depicted as a noble working lady who may not have had a political interest or if she did then it was very little. Thus, stories mentioned about her role in the movement to abolish discrimination for the African Americans are usually depicted with the action she took on December 1, 1958. Here, the reader is shown a comprehensive knowledge of Rosa Parks’ political and intellectual activities for many years of her early life and more importantly her later years during her civic action of 1958 till the time when she finally died in the year 2005.

Having an understanding of her early stages of life and the activities she exposed herself to, it is interesting to note that the man she finally married was a political activist. He was known as Raymon Parks. Besides, Raymon was involved in different affiliations which included the membership of NAACP. Thus, Theoris does a great work in ensuring that the readers properly understand how Park and many others who may not have been well documented got involved in life-changing activities which laid the groundwork in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus, it became what was known to be the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Generally, the numerous activities of early activists, for instance, those that did a lot in activism but never achieved anything in the end, later succeeded in the movement that flowered in the late 1950’s with the Education ruling of the Supreme Court which involved Brown vs Board as well as the subsequent momentum that ensued. Parks is noted to have involved himself in NAACP despite the Montgomery unit having been made up of many careful people considered to very professional who mainly were men. However, there were usual conflicts among member in the group owing to concerns that some of the issues were found to be either radical or controversial. The time during the commencement of Park’s civil disobedience and subsequent years that the action took place became very challenging for Park and her family. In effect, Rosa and Raymond got to a situation where they had to lose their jobs. Rosa had to make a trip on behalf of both Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP.Nonetheless, they had to cover her travel expenses even though she was never an employee of both organizations. Consequently, they had to move to Detroit owing to the family economic hardship which they went through for a period of time that they could not withstand. It is Detroit where Rosa’s brothers Sylvester then lived.

Interestingly, while she was in Detroit Parks never stopped engaging in her advocacy on behalf of the Civil Rights movement. Here, she started participating in offering lectures to people, she engaged in marching protests for both workers’ rights and civil rights as wells attending rallies and conferences. In addition, she supported the rising Black Power movement which was famous among young African Americans in who lived in Detroit. Conversely, it is lost to history the struggle and commitment of Rosa Parks. Instead, it has continued to portray a rather superficial portrait of her, as though the day that was only important in her life was on December 1, 1958. The author of this great book shows Rosa Parks as a person whose whole life was involved in the struggle for social and racial justice. It is noted that her views about the evils of racial injustice originated from her personal experiences of racism in her own family. In addition, her beliefs were more elevated by her exposure to the lecture and writings of both white and black leaders and all champions of racial equality. Of importance is the fact that Theoris painted a beautifully detailed portrait of Rosa Parks. For those who have only had the miniature version of her story, will have to have a look at the last page of the book in awe at the power and richness of her contribution and involvement in social justice in the US.

Analyzing the authors introductory remarks to this biography, Theoharis the College of Brooklyn political scientist points out the apparent view of Rosa Parks (1913–2005): “hidden in plain sight, celebrated and paradoxically relegated to be a hero for children.” Inside that space, Theoharis outlines a nicely presented study of Parks’s carrier and life as an activist. Moreover, she follows her role with the Montgomery NAACP with other groups beginning the 1930s forward, then again form Alabama after the 1956 bus boycott to Detroit. She analyses a dedication to civil rights, thus disrupting readers view of Parks as a “tired seamstress” who just stuck on her seat on a bus on a certain day in 1955. Similarly, “iconography of Parks,” as Theoharis indicates, can be utilized as a starting point to understand the wider trends in the history of the civil rights movement. In her analysis, she narrates how the “national fable” of Parks provides “its untarnished happy ending and its ability to reflect the best possibilities of the United States,” thereby moderating philosophies that are revolutionary like the Black Power movement, that was advocated for by Park. Further, Theoharis appeals for a review of the legacy of Park as well as the movement Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and others were responsible for establishing.


Williams, Kam. “Book Review: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

by Jeanne Theoharis.” African America Literature Book Club. 29th January, 2013. Web.16thApril, 2019. Accessed at:

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