Feet Of Clay


Charles Blows:

Rosa Parks, Revisited

Most of what you think you know about Rosa Parks may well be wrong.

On the verge of the 100th anniversary of her birth this Monday comes a fascinating new book, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” by Jeanne Theoharis, a Brooklyn College professor. It argues that the romanticized, children’s-book story of a meek seamstress with aching feet who just happened into history in a moment of uncalculated resistance is pure mythology.


She spent nearly two decades before the bus incident struggling, organizing and agitating for civil rights, mostly as the secretary of the Montgomery, Ala., branch of the N.A.A.C.P. But it wasn’t until Parks was in her 40s and attended an integrated workshop that she found “for the first time in my adult life that this could be a unified society.” This didn’t mean that she was eager for integration, though. She was later quoted as saying that what people sought “was not a matter of close physical contact with whites, but equal opportunity.”


And the idea that she stayed seated because of physical fatigue is pure fiction.

“I didn’t tell anyone my feet were hurting,” the book quotes her as saying. “It was just popular, I suppose because they wanted to give some excuse other than the fact that I didn’t want to be pushed around.”


When Parks died in 2005, Theoharis says, “The Rosa Parks who surfaced in the deluge of public commentary was, in nearly every account, characterized as ‘quiet.’ ‘Humble,’ ‘dignified,’ and ‘soft-spoken,’ she was ‘not angry’ and ‘never raised her voice.’ ”

Parks, like many other Americans who over the years have angrily agitated for change in this country, had been sanitized and sugarcoated for easy consumption.

As Theoharis writes: “Held up as a national heroine but stripped of her lifelong history of activism and anger at American injustice, the Parks who emerged was a self-sacrificing mother figure for a nation who would use her death for a ritual of national redemption.”

Fortunately, this book seeks to restore Parks’s wholeness, even at the risk of stirring unease.

The Rosa Parks in this book is as much Malcolm X as she is Martin Luther King Jr.

In modern, politically-correct history, the civil rights activists of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s were all saints who nobly suffered for the betterment of all mankind. With a few notable exceptions, white people in the south during that era were evil racists with no redeeming qualities.

The truth, as always, is a little more complex. We are all human. We are simultaneously cable of good and evil. I don’t know how accurate this new Parks biography is, but I do know she was a living, breathing 3-dimensional person, not a caricature.

When we canonize people from history we hold ourselves to an impossible standard. By glorifying the past we diminish the present.

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. – Daniel 2:31-33

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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16 Responses to Feet Of Clay

  1. Amazing what is left out of “history.” I often wonder how real, normal, everyday people felt and thought about the events of their times.

    • elliesmom says:

      I’ve spent some time studying the contribution of women to science. Ninety-nine percent of the “breakthroughs” in science until recently were all attributed to men, but there are indications women made significant contributions all along the way. There are many men who held responsible positions outside of the field of science which must have taken up considerable amounts of their time, and yet they still had plenty of time to make remarkable discoveries in their home-based laboratories. Even Einstein’s most significant contributions came when he was married to his first wife. After they divorced, he wasn’t nearly so brilliant. Antoine Lavoisier, the “father of chemistry”, included his wife in his portrait of him in his laboratory. If it had been a picture of him sitting on his living room sofa. . . I often wonder how women felt when the only way they could have their discoveries taken seriously was to give their husbands credit. Did they deliberately choose a husband who they could pass off as smart enough to have believably done the work?

  2. Jesse Jackson just does not think things through. (or perhaps he does?)

    Before a march on the city’s South Side, Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said America’s third most populous city needed more help than Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy could offer.
    “When the president shows up, it shows ultimate national seriousness,” said Jackson, a Chicago resident. He also called for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help patrol the streets of Chicago.

    Really? Are you SURE sir? Because to me- that is like inviting martial law. Once they come, you will never, ever get rid of them. Not ever.

    • DeniseVB says:

      Jackson can organize marchers, why not a group of community activists to clean up the streets? Establish neighborhood watches, bust up the gangs, have police ride alongs. Oh he would rather have DHS send in a bunch of “George Zimmermans” to shoot the black kids so JJ can lead more race baiting rallies.

  3. foxyladi14 says:

    Good question Denise. 🙂

  4. Mary says:

    OT: One quick comment re Obama’s so-called skeet-shootin picture.

    I shoot skeet. Browning over and under 20 gauge.

    Nobody holds the butt of the gun that high on their shoulder, or they go home bruised. The gun nestles lower, between the arm and the chest, and the shooter leans forward to anticipate the backward motion.

    That may be unimportant information, but I felt compelled to share that—-Obama hasn’t a clue what he’s doing. 🙂

  5. foxyladi14 says:

    We are not amused or impressed with the Skeet shooter in chief. 😯

  6. I will never understand these people. NEVER EVER EVER!

    Online activists in Saudi Arabia are calling for harsher punishments for child abuse after reports that a prominent cleric received only a light sentence after confessing to the beating death of his 5-year-old daughter.
    The reports said he questioned the child’s virginity.

    WTF? As if a five yr old girl could be capable of losing her virginity willfully.
    Castration is too good for these animals.

  7. I just saw this clip on YouTube. It had me weeping for our country. I have no clue about the series- I don’t get HBO. But THIS! This speech!

  8. yttik says:

    Dozens of women and girls were arrested for refusing to move years before Rosa Parks. Claudette Colvin was a teenager who was arrested about 9 mos before Rosa Park’s act. Colvin was one of four women plaintiffs who challenged the law in court and successfully changed segregation bus laws.

    I hate to sound so cynical, but Rosa Parks was selected by the NAACP for having the right look and demeanor. She wasn’t a fraud or anything like that, she was just viewed as being a more politically correct image for the cause. All the other women and girls who had been fighting this fight all along where either too young, too old, too radical, felt like the cause was better served in court challenges,or had disagreements with the NAACP.

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