The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Jeanne Theoharis. Beacon, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8070-5047-7
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.)
Reviewed on: 11/12/2012
Release date: 01/29/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 543 pages - 978-1-61173-676-2
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-8070-3332-6
Ebook - 273 pages - 978-0-8070-5048-4
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8070-7692-7
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