Teaching About Rosa Parks

Resources referenced during the "People’s Historians Online for Middle and High School" mini-classes about Rosa Parks in March and April of 2020.

Here is a list of many of the people, events, and resources referenced during the People’s Historians Online class about Rosa Parks on March 27 and April 3, with historian and author Jeanne Theoharis in conversation with high school teacher and Rethinking Schools editor Jesse Hagopian.

Rosa Parks Highlander School | Zinn Education Project

The Rebellious Lives of Mrs. Rosa Parks role play activity by Bill Bigelow was inspired by Jeanne Theoharis’ book and her online classes.

In this mixer lesson, students learn about Rosa Parks’ many decades of activism by taking on roles from various times in her life. Students learn about her radicalism before, during, and long after the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Photo on left: Rosa Parks at a desegregation workshop at Highlander Folk School six months before the boycott. Also in photo: Septima Poinsette Clark, F. D. Patterson, and C. H. Parrish. Credit: Civil Rights Digital Library.

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis is a gripping biography of one the best, yet also least, known women in 20th century U.S. history.

A young adult version of the book will be released by Beacon Press in February, 2021.

Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Website) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Website
A well-organized collection of archival sources including Rosa Parks’ papers at the Library of Congress. Many of the people and events referenced by Jeanne Theoharis are described in more detail on the site, such as the Scottsboro Nine, E. D. Nixon and the Montgomery NAACP, Highlander Folk School, Claudette Colvin, Black Power, and more.
Remembering Red Summer (graphic) | Zinn Education Project Remembering Red Summer — Which Textbooks Seem Eager to Forget by Ursula Wolfe-Rocca
Jeanne Theoharis noted that Rosa Parks’s “grandfather supported the Garvey movement and, when Klan violence escalated after World War I, he would sit out on the porch with his shotgun to protect the family home. A 6-year-old Rosa would sometimes sit vigil with him.” That would have been during the racist riots of 1919, known as Red Summer.

Jeremiah Reeves was indicted at 16-years-old for the rape of a white woman, a confession he made under the threat of death. Jeanne Theoharis noted that, “There are many, many strands that bring people to the point that they get to launch this 13-month boycott, and certainly one of those is Jeremiah Reeves’ conviction and sitting on death row until he gets to be old enough to executed.”

Rosa Parks exchanged letters with Jeremiah while he was jailed and helped him to get his poetry published in the Birmingham World.

Transportation Protests: 1841 to 1966 by Julian Hipkins III and David Busch

The struggle for the desegregation of transportation has a long history in the United States. Here is a list of dozens of key individuals and organizations who took a stand against segregated transit.

Joan Little (left) was tried for murder for the 1974 stabbing death of one of her jailers. There was an international campaign for her freedom. Long committed to justice for Black women who had been raped or assaulted, Parks was one of the founders of the Joanne Little Defense Committee in Detroit. Read more at the Rosa Parks Biography website.
More individuals and events mentioned during the April 3 session were Septima Clark, Virginia Foster Durr, Ona Judge, Pauli Murray, and Bayard Rustin.

Two of the participants in the March 27 session were Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) veterans Judy Richardson and Betty Garman Robinson. Learn more about the history of SNCC at the SNCC Digital Gateway and bring the history to your students with Teaching SNCC: The Organization at the Heart of the Civil Rights Revolution.

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