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The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks Paperback – 18 Mar 2014


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Review

""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
" "

"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.
The Rosa Parks in this book is as much Malcolm X as she is Martin Luther King Jr.
Charles Blow, "The New York Times"
Richly informative, calmly passionate and much needed.
Nell Irvin Painter, "The New York Times Book Rreview"
"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"
Jeanne Theoharis has written an eye-opening biography of Rosa Parks. It was ideal for the classroom: smart, brisk, and engaging. Best of all, Theoharis explodes all of the cliches surrounding a historical figure whom most students thought they knew. I will assign this book again and again.
Thomas J. Sugrue, David Boies Professor of History and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Jeanne Theoharis s Rosa Parks is a pedagogical gift. Clearly written, forcefully argued, and filled with important and groundbreaking historical insights about the civil rights era, black women s indelible political and intellectual framing of the movement, and the deep-seated black radicalism that undergirded the entire era. A must read book for every course on the civil rights movement.
Peniel E. Joseph, Professor of History at Tufts University and author of"Waiting til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America"

"From the Hardcover edition.""

In the first sweeping history of Parks s life, Theoharis shows us...[that] Parks not only sat down on the bus; she stood on the right side of justice for her entire life.
Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP
"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.
The Rosa Parks in this book is as much Malcolm X as she is Martin Luther King Jr.
Charles Blow, "The New York Times"
Richly informative, calmly passionate and much needed.
Nell Irvin Painter, "The New York Times Book Rreview"
"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"
Jeanne Theoharis has written an eye-opening biography of Rosa Parks. It was ideal for the classroom: smart, brisk, and engaging. Best of all, Theoharis explodes all of the cliches surrounding a historical figure whom most students thought they knew. I will assign this book again and again.
Thomas J. Sugrue, David Boies Professor of History and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Jeanne Theoharis s Rosa Parks is a pedagogical gift. Clearly written, forcefully argued, and filled with important and groundbreaking historical insights about the civil rights era, black women s indelible political and intellectual framing of the movement, and the deep-seated black radicalism that undergirded the entire era. A must read book for every course on the civil rights movement.
Peniel E. Joseph, Professor of History at Tufts University and author of"Waiting til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America"

"From the Hardcover edition.""

About the Author

Jeanne Theoharis is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She received an A.B. in Afro-American studies from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan. She is the author or coauthor of six books and numerous articles on the black freedom struggle and the contemporary politics of race in the United States

"From the Hardcover edition."


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Amazon.com: HASH(0x87efd03c) out of 5 stars 83 reviews
49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8853ec18) out of 5 stars Lavishly researched and inspiring 3 Feb. 2013
By The Barefoot Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
As is usual, I received this book as part of a GoodReads drawing. Despite the kind consideration of receiving a free book I give my candid assessment below.

The main topical thrust of this book is to set the story of Parks' life in its proper light from her initial involvement in the Civil Rights movement well before the famous Bus Incident until she finally received the Medal of Honor in 1999. Mythology paints Parks as a frail matronly figure who just happens to do the right thing at the right time. The reality that Theoharis paints is much more intriguing as it finds Parks involved in the movement for years before her epic stand and as a key figure in the leadership of the movement.

The reader is also introduced to the darker side of the story including Parks' great personal , financial and psychological sacrifices. Highlighted too is the sexism rife within the organization that led her to be a silent participant in the early years. The Parks story is no fairy tale but instead a complex and interwoven narrative of a woman and a people who had finally just had enough of the injustice that surrounded them.

Beyond the content, the book is lavishly and intricately researched. Much of the text is provided through direct quotes from the participants. This is an exceptionally scholarly work but also one that draws the reader in and builds a deep sympathetic aura. The book concludes with 57 pages of index and appendices so it is a great research resource but unlike most books of that genre it is innately readable as well.

In summary, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks is a elaborately painted picture of the battle against the injustice that sat sullenly over the Jim Crow South during the civil rights era from the viewpoint of one very courageous woman. Despite the common idea that racism has been expunged from American culture, this book is a great and timely reminder of those dark and tempestuous times that were not all that long ago and that still cast a shadow over us even today.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8853ec6c) out of 5 stars Meet the real Rosa Parks 12 Feb. 2013
By jem - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Theoharis set out to demonstrate through exhaustive research that Rosa Parks was far more than a symbol of the Civil Rights Movement and she succeeds admirably. How many people even knew that she was married, or that she was deeply involved in political action to achieve justice for African Americans, serving as secretary of the Montgomery chapter and the state of Alabama NAACP years before the Montgomery boycott? Or that she lived the last half of her life in Detroit working for more than two decades in the office of Congressman Conyers?

The breadth of Rosa Parks' involvement is as amazing as her modest willingness to work behind the scenes for what she considered a group not an individual cause.

Theoharis delivers a new perspective in three particularly interesting aspects of the Civil Rights struggle. The first is overwhelming evidence that Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus was far from the first such act and neither was it a planned provocation by an organized group. It was an unplanned response by a woman who had been humiliated and denied justice because of her race one time too many. It proved significant because Mrs. Parks was well known as a worker for justice among various local organizations and she was the perfect symbol of a beautiful, light-skinned, working class Negro woman who exhibited calm capability respected by both blacks and whites. But this symbolism caused her arrest and conviction, cost her and her husband their employment and exposed them to malicious news articles and violently threatening phone calls that untimately led to their move north -- only to discover that discrimination was not confined to the south.

Which leads directly to the two saddest revelations in this book -- the gender and class division within the black community leading the movement. E.D. Nixon, a railroad sleeping car porter, and Rosa Parks, a seamstress, had worked for years to develop the NAACP agenda in Montgomery, but during the bus boycott of 1955-56, working class blacks were overshadowed by middle-class leadership, including the eloquent young minister, Martin Luther King. Although Rosa Parks traveled and gave speeches extensively to raise thousands for the NAACP and Montgomery Improvement Association maintaining the boycott, the Parks family was living in extreme poverty, surviving largely on donations sought by a white friend of Rosa's. The male leadership largely ignored the organizing and communication efforts of many women who worked anonymously in the subservient role long assigned to black women.

This is revisionist history at its finest -- eye opening for young people and for those of us growing up in the north during the 50s and 60s who wonder why our newspapers and history books never told this story.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ba30c0) out of 5 stars The full story of Rosa Parks. 31 Jan. 2013
By Mr Mapcase - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book set out to debunk the myth that Rosa Parks was a onetime activist. This is a definitive examination of Parks' continued fight for civil rights long before her famous bus ride, and long afterwards, in the face of discrimination, both from whites and black men, in the form of everything from indifference to intimidation to terrorist attacks. Theoharis shows Parks to be shy yet forceful and peaceful yet strong-willed in what she believed in and not afraid to stand for what is right.

Thanks to Beacon Press for the free copy.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ba348c) out of 5 stars Not just a nice, quiet old lady who sat because she was tired 2 April 2013
By Glenn R. Springstead - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a political biography of Parks, which disputes the superficial portrayal often given this hero of the Civil Rights movement. Contrary to most media treatment, Rosa Parks was a long-time activist for whom the decision to stay in her seat when asked to move on a Montgomery city bus in December 1955 helped ignite the Civil Rights movement and bring to worldwide attention and acclaim a young minister newly arrived in town, Martin Luther King, Jr. But Parks was no stranger to the struggle against segregation and racism that day. She had been active in Montgomery's NAACP chapter and traveled to an integrated education center in Tennesee earlier in the year for training and discussions in community organizing and peaceful resistance. (This center in Tennessee would come to some noteriety in the South as the supposed "Communist Training Center" attended by King).

The decision to stay seated on the bus that day was also not a risk-free decision, in many ways. Other African Americans had also resisted segregation on the city's buses before Parks, and had been roughly treated in response. African Americans arrested in the South were often subject to beatings, or worse, by police. Segregation resisters were threatened and harrassed, by physically and verbally. Some had their houses bombed. And given the White establishment's control of most businesses, economic pressure could be brought to bear on Civil Rights activists. In fact, Parks was to lose her job as a seamstress because of the bus boycott that followed her confrontation with the bus driver that day.

A year later the courts ruled that segregated buses were unconstitutional and public transportation became integrated. But economic and health problems continued for Parks, whose live-in mother required care and Parks' husband ultimately resigned his job as a barber at a military base.

Parks and her family moved to Detroit, where she continued her Civil Rights activism in her new city and throughout the nation. She traveled and spoke widely during the 1950's and '60's on the subject of Civil Rights and the African American struggle for equality. She attended the August 1963 march in Washington at which MLK gave his famous I Have a Dream speech. She lived in Detroit during that city's rebellion (or riot as it was labeled by the press) when many blacks and some whites were killed and property in the African American community was destroyed. Much of the cause leading to the violence had to do with what was largely a segregated housing situation. Despite it's being a northern city, Detroit presented many of the same problems for African Americans as the South. In the remaining decades of her life Parks continued to travel and speak on many issues of concern to the Civil Rights community, including apartheid in South Africa. She opposed the Vietnam War and the American government's support of various military dictatorships in Latin and South America in the 1970's and '80's.

Despite her public prominence, Parks has continued to be portrayed as having minor influence in the Civil Rights movement. Why is this so? There were a variety of reasons. One, her gender. Male black leaders were given or sought leadership roles in the movement and often attempted to marginalize female leadership or constrain it to certain roles. Two, her economic class, seen as lower class even in the African American community. Parks did not attend college. Even in Alabama and the Montgomery area, despite or because of segregation, a professional and middle class of African Americans, typically more cautious in their political approach, existed, which tended to overshadow the influence of less well educated blacks. Third, Parks herself was rather hesitant in interviews to reveal much about herself. Partly this was a protective reaction, honed early in life to avoid unnecessary conflict and reprisals from Whites in the South due to her activism. Related to this somewhat more personal cause is the fact that much of Parks' papers and personal information is currently inaccessible, as her Estate continues to be, in the years since her death in 2005, in dispute.

In all, the book is highly informative about Parks' life and values. Some parts of the book can seem repetitive--frequent and repeated references to Parks' economic struggles and attempts (by others) to have the NAACP and the wider Civil Rights movement recompense Parks for her significant and continued contributions to the cause, and by attempts by others, mostly male professionals, to minimize her role. This latter is especially a reaccurent theme throughout the book. Parks would eventually in the 1980's obtain regular employment in the congressional office of Representative Conyers, her local congressman.

At her death, Parks was celebrated by much of the public and official Washington as a non-confrontational spark of resistence, a courageous voice of peace and conciliation. According to the author, the softening or ignorance of Parks' actual life and struggles has helped serve the purpose of whitewashing the Civil Rights era from its controversial aspects and the hostility it engendered. Parks continued receiving hate mail into the '80's from those offended by her activism and role in challenging the social order of her time. As Parks believed, the process of change required continual viligence and confrontation. Hopefully this book will help bring to light for a new generation of readers and Americans the struggles of the past in helping create the more open and integrated America of the present.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92ba3438) out of 5 stars Four Stars with a Quibble 12 Mar. 2013
By Mark Levine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important book that will stand as the definitive biography of the brave woman whose statue was just unveiled in our Capitol, but I have some qualms about just whom the author, a well-regarded (and second generation)academic historian,is addressing. It purports to be a corrective to the popular view of Rosa Parks as a simple seamstress who just got tired one evening and refused to surrender her seat on a segregated Montgomery bus, thus leading to the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, the ascendancy of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. as its leader, and, on its heels, the groundswell of the civil rights movement. Parks, Theoharis asserts, had long been, and continued to be, an activist, and she deftly fleshes out an undisputed heroine of the movement. But, although the simplistic portrayal of the tired seamstress was for many years an element of the conventional mysthology, and remained so in books for children and elsewhere, it has now been accepted by scholars and serious readers for years that Parks had been, in fact, an active if quiet force in the local NAACP (an act of some courage in itself)and had, shortly before refusing to yield her seat, attended a workshop at Highlander School, a long-acknowledged influence on her development.
But if Theoharis set out to counter a widely-held misconception, she assumes too much knowledge on the part of her less academic readers. On several occasions she alludes without prior explanation to some event--- an earlier incident on a local bus involving teenager Claudette Colvin, an original plan for a one-day boycott following Parks's arrest, etc.---that may be familiar to serious scholars or informed laymen, but not to the more general reader. Although these are treated (really introduced) in each case only a few pages later, the original citation may confuse readers and have them shuffling pages or consulting the index.
Notwithstanding this occasional lack of continuity, Theoharis has captured the drama, historical context, and sheer inspiration of Rosa Parks's life, and while emphasizing and clarifying hder subject's role in the movement, gives full credit to other important participants who have not often received their just due. It is, on balance, a rich, well-researched, and stirring story about an engaged life.
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