Northern Valley Beacon

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Thursday, October 27, 2005


Rosa Parks and the bus boycott

By the time that Rosa Parks refused to give in to segregation and relinquish her seat on a bus to a white man, an elaborate and complicated network for achieving civil rights was in place. The day she declined to give up her seat was December 1, 1955.

In an age when most knowledge is transmitted through 30-second sound bites and shallow blogging, the actual work and circumstances of civil rights are lost. Most people think the Civil Rights Movement was a phenomenon of the 1960s. It was firmly planted in the 1950s, and that is when the movers, such as Rosa Parks, did the most important work.

When Rosa Parks was arrested and fined, a boycott against the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, was begun. It did not just happen. Effective boycotts need planning and implementation. In Alabama of that time, black people were dependent upon bus transportation. They knew that if they boycotted the bus service, the effects would be felt economically. But they needed alternative means of getting around to get to work and do their business. And that is where the planning and the implementation came in.

Martin Luther King, Jr., was the leader who came into Montgomery and helped show the people what was needed to make the boycott work. Without that boycott, we would most likely not even know who Rosa Parks was today.

Desegregation and the end of Jim Crow actually had its origins when Pres. Harry Truman signed an executive order to end segregation in the military service. Not until the Korean War, however, did some generals take up the cause of desegregation and start putting an end to military units that were composed of one race. It was a fight. It was resisted. But veterans who came out of the Korean War were ready to help and carry the fight against Jim Crow into the streets of America. They fought with a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.

Then came the Supreme Court decision in 1954 proclaiming that school segregation was against the law of the land. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, she knew that the law was beginning to form support for causes such as hers.

Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist before she was arrested on that bus, had the courage and the understanding of what was at issue to be an effective rallying person. But she was part of a carefully thought-out and planned movement to bring liberty and equality to people from whom it was denied.

Rosa Parks was effective because of she was carrying forward the legacy of Harry Truman, black Korean War veterans, Martin Luther King, and the thousands of people who, like her, stood up in resistance to Jim Crow.

Oddly, the political party of Abraham Lincoln, who began the quest for citizenship and civil rights for black America, was the most condemning of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott. Most people have forgotten that. I haven't. It was one of the stances over which I eventually changed parties.
And I'd do it again, if the party I belong to cannot muster the will and the courage to stand up against current injustices, like the war on Iraq.

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