The real story of Rosa Parks (collection of resources)

As I’m diving into Susan Cain’s “Quiet”, I once again came across this narrative of Rosa Parks:

I had always imagined Rosa Parks as a stately woman with a bold temperament, someone who could easily stand up toa busload of glowering passengers.

Cain instead presents that this expectation was violated when she read Rosa Park’s obituaries:

They said she was “timid and shy” but had the “courage of the lion”. They were full of phrases like “radical humility” and “quiet fortitude”.

I think the overall intention of this example was to illustrate that while our society continually focusses on extroversion as the gold standard of success and change, introverts equally have the qualities to make change.

I am cautious about this example, as the story of Rosa Parks has often been morphed to pitch a marketable narrative.

Maybe Rosa Parks was an introvert and this was minimized to boost the movement, the way that introverts often have to be marketed as pseudo-extroverts to be taken seriously. Maybe her intentional, lifelong activism with the NAACP has been minimized to fit the narrative that she was just an “old, tired seamstress” who didn’t want to get up on the bus because of her “tired feet” on a random day. Maybe both. Maybe neither.

I don’t have the answers, but instead want to amplify Black voices who have written and spoken about this.

The real story of Rosa Parks — and why we need to confront myths about Black History (by David Ikard at TEDxNashville)

Transcript here

A story of how a Black fourth grade had to take on the burden of educating his own teacher about teaching accurate history.

And I got real angry. Why? Why would I get angry? Because my nine-year old son had to educate his teacher about his history, had to educate his teacher about his own humanity. He’s nine years old. He should be thinking about basketball or soccer or the latest movie. He should not be thinking about having to take the responsibility of educating his teacher, his students, about himself, about his history. That was a burden I carried. That was a burden my parents carried and generations before them carried. And now I was seeing my son take on that burden, too.

Rosa Park’s own autobiography specifically debunks this myth of being tired and old

In My Story:

People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in

Urana McCauley (Rosa Park’s niece) recalls this story of her Aunt lifelong activism

In an article on Shondaland:

When she was 10, a white boy pushed Auntie Rosa, and she pushed him back. Auntie Rosa’s grandmother told her, “You need to be quiet, you need to stop being so vocal.” She was told, as black people, we’re not allowed to do those things to whites. Her grandmother was concerned that she’d get hurt, that she could even get lynched. But Auntie Rosa told her grandmother, “Let them try to lynch me.” She was that bold, even when she was young.

This is not an exhaustive list, but one that I will be returning to as I continue to do my own learning as well. If you have resources or recommendations, please let me know!



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Lucy Dan 蛋小姐 (she/her/她)

Filling in the cracks on conflicting self improvement advice and translating how these can work for a more diverse audience ✨ Icon by: @jkbarts #WEOC writer.