Tag Archives: Montgomery Bus Boycott

The bio of this bus chick’s dreams

I’ve been leading a charmed reading life of late. Almost everything I’ve carried in my bus bag for the last year (plus) has been worth its (considerable) weight in gold: informative, compelling, inspiring. But even all this good bus reading didn’t prepare me for my most recent ride read, which absolutely rocked my world.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by civil rights scholar Jeanne Theoharis, is the most comprehensive—really, the only—political biography written about my sweet Chicklet‘s namesake. It is the book I would have written myself, had I more impressive credentials and initiative.

There is so much to learn from Theoharis’s research, even for someone who has read essentially everything available to read by (and about) Mrs. Parks. Rebellious Life examines the Rosa Parks beyond the fable. It explores her lifetime of activism—including her half century in Bus Nerd’s hometown of Detroit—and all of the ways she contributed to the struggle for freedom and justice. I am in awe of the depth of her sacrifice and commitment to her ideals. As Theoharis says in the book’s introduction:

It is a rare gift as a scholar to get to deconstruct the popular narrative and demythologize an historical figure, and in the process, discover a more impressive and substantive person underneath.

This, of course, means you’re in for many more (and more substantive) Parks-related posts in the future.

Stop that Alabama bus!

My most recent bus read was the autobiography of OG Detroit activist, Grace Lee Boggs. Come to think of it, it was the bus read before last; I finished Home last week. (I’m currently experiencing some rather extreme Toni Morrison withdrawal and am still carrying it around in my bag.)

I digress.

Among the many things I learned when reading Ms. Boggs’ book is that this amazing song exists.

I realize that it isn’t December 1st (or February 4th), but I couldn’t wait that long to share this. And really, is it ever a bad time to acknowledge the power and significance of the Montgomery Bus Boycott? Right. Moving on…

“Alabama Bus” was recorded in 1956, at the height of the year(+)-long boycott. The artist, Will Hairston, was a friend of Grace and her husband, James Boggs. Mr. Hairston, also known as “the Hurricane of the Motor City,” was an auto worked and preacher who was deeply involved in the struggle for social justice and economic equality.

Thank you for your contributions, Brother Hairston. And, as always, honor and respect to the Original Bus Chick, Mrs. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks.

Thank you (again), Sister Rosa

The current temperature in Montgomery, AL: 39 degrees. (To Bus Nerd’s down-south fam: My condolences.)

It is just now occurring to me how ridiculously courageous it is to start a bus boycott in December.* Shoot, just getting to church (which is only a mile north of us) on foot last Sunday in the pouring, freezing rain was an adventure. Our boycott was accidental (we missed the bus), but, now that our stop has been removed, we have to walk almost a half a mile just to get to a 48. So, bus or no, we’re going to get wet.

But I digress.

While we’re on the subject of Mrs. Parks (yes, again!), I might as well share with you that, on my latest visit to Detroit, I finally visited the Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford. (I didn’t mention it in the original post, because I had already spent too much time gushing about the Rosa Parks Transit Center. And, yes, I realize that it might be time for an intervention.) Fellow bus chicks, behold:

Rosa Parks bus

My Rosa sitting in THE Rosa’s seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds, will continue in others.” – Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

***
*Over time, the boycott developed a pretty sophisticated system of carpools (you can read more about it in Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom)–despite police harassment and legal challenges–but many of the participants in the boycott walked very long distances in all kinds of weather.

Fifty-four years ago today…

A very brave woman started something big.

Not surprisingly, segregated city buses weren’t Mrs. Parks’ only experience with unequal transportation. During her school years in Pine Level, Alabama, white students were provided with school buses while black children were forced to walk.

“The bus,” she said in an interview, “was among the first ways I realized there was a black world and a white world.”

Certainly, there are remnants of this separation today (including on the bus*), but I am so grateful that Mrs. Parks (and many, many others) sacrificed their livelihoods and personal safety so that I could take for granted my right to ride.

Detroit's Rosa Parks Transit Center
The new Rosa Parks Transit Center, as seen from the Detroit People Mover (photo courtesy of My Gail‘s husband, Hodge)

“Memories of our lives, our works and our deeds, live on in others.” – Rosa Parks

RIP, Original Bus Chick. Much respect.

*I just read an interesting (if not particularly recent) article about the state of Montgomery transit (and equality) at the Millennium. (via: Streetsblog Network)

And again: Respect to those who came before

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

During the rush hours the sidewalks were crowded with laborers and domestic workers, many of them well past middle age, trudging patiently to their jobs and home again, sometimes as much as twelve miles. They knew why they walked, and the knowledge was evident in the way they carried themselves. And as I watched them I knew that there is nothing more majestic than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for their courage and dignity.

(Source: Stride Toward Freedom)

I’ve posted this quote before, but I keep coming back to it because it moves me, and because it is applicable to so many challenges we face today.

Happy birthday, Dr. King.