Books: Non-Fiction

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Time Periods: 20th Century, 1945, 1961
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Women's History

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks blows away the myths we learned about the “tired seamstress” who gave up her seat on the bus. The only thing she was tired of was injustice.

Parks had an amazing life of activism going back to the 1930s, beginning with her concern about the Scottsboro Nine through the struggle in the South, and her work with Myles Horton at the Highlander Folk School, the bus boycott in Montgomery and then to Detroit where she lived more than half her life. She worked with the left, communists, socialists, the anti-war and black power movements, and had great admiration and respect for Malcolm X and Robert Williams.

Whatever we think we know about Rosa Parks, there is far more we do not know and will learn from this work. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks is a must for teachers, parents, and grandparents, to undo the damaging myths that essentially began and ended her political life on December 1, 1955, frozen in time as Dr. King was on August 28, 1963. Most Americans are unaware of their anti-war and anti-capitalist views.

Jeanne Theoharis’s book is a must, an outstanding work.

—-Review by John Marciano, Professor Emeritus at SUNY Cortland and co-author of Teaching the Vietnam War.

ISBN: 9780807050477 | Beacon Press

Related Resources

Teaching Guide

A collection of lessons for middle and high school classrooms based on the book and/or film, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. Some of the lessons focus on why Rosa Parks is so widely misunderstood — and what this says about national myths, histories, and memorialization. Others take a deeper dive into a particular event or topic.

Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Website) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's HistoryWebsite

Drawn from The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks and various archival sources including Rosa Parks’ papers at the Library of Congress, this project traces the expanse of Rosa Parks’ political work and commitments and the breadth of the Black struggle for justice across the 20th century. Visit website.


Listen to author Jeanne Theoharis discuss The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks using the audio recording below.

Find lessons for the book and other related resources below.