As dozens of state laws restrict how race and history are taught in schools, and with books banned from school libraries in record numbers, many teachers are doubling down on their commitment to teach young people about institutionalized racism and how to organize for justice.
One key resource is The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, the young readers’ edition of a book by acclaimed historian Jeanne Theoharis, adapted by award-winning YA author Brandy Colbert.
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We’ve placed a special emphasis on distributing copies to educators in states with laws passed or pending that would ban teaching about institutionalized racism and African American history — which Rosa Parks spent much of her life resisting. We will be prioritizing Florida, Texas, and Virginia, given their recent anti-history decisions. We have also built a teaching guide to use with the book and new documentary.
Huge s/o and thank you to the folks @ZinnEdProject for gifting my students a class set of this incredible book about the *real* Mrs. Rosa Parks! We are engaged in learning about her rebellious spirit, and destroying the myths that reduce her activism to a single stance on a bus. pic.twitter.com/xSwzZ2SkKQ
— Don Dumas (@don_dumas) April 20, 2022
The map below indicates where the 13,000 books have been shipped to date. Red pins indicate states that have passed anti-history education laws, yellow have laws proposed, blue have either defeated laws or have none proposed, but still have communities where teaching about racism is threatened. What the map cannot show is the chilling effect of the laws nationwide.
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The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks shows how Parks’ life was a tapestry of resistance, including and beyond her brave act on the bus in Montgomery. In fact, Parks spent more than half her life in Detroit fighting segregation in housing, hospitals and restaurants; protesting police murders of Black teenagers; organizing against sexual violence and against apartheid in South Africa; and working for Congressman John Conyers.
Parks’ life story offers lessons for young people about a life of activism against systems of oppression, which explains why teachers are responding so enthusiastically to the offer for copies of this inspiring book.
Help us bring this book to more classrooms. Make a donation today. In collaboration with Beacon Press, we can send a bundle of five books to a teacher for $60.
As teachers request copies of the book for their classrooms, they share stories about how they will be used. Here are a few of the hundreds of examples submitted.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. I live in Texas and, as you can imagine, have experienced some pushback as far as my African American Studies curriculum is concerned. Suffice it to say, I remain undaunted. I am compelled to teach the truth and make this history come alive for my students. — high school social studies teacher, San Antonio, Texas
Reading The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks with the class will serve as an entry point into a classroom project to address an issue of racial justice in our local community. — middle school teacher, Athens, Georgia
I’ll use these books to expose my kids to a part of history that is not taught in the regular curriculum, as well as show them more about the real person behind the paragraph they are taught. — middle school language arts teacher, Garland, Texas
The outdated “Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat because she was tired” message is of no help to young people who are becoming more conscious of their role in creating a better future. I will incorporate this book in both my APUSH and Senior Government classes by having students, in teams, analyze selected portions of the book to facilitate discussion about the movement leading up to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. — high school social studies teacher, Washington, Utah
These stories make evident that countless teachers, often at personal and professional risk, refuse to censor their lessons. Not only are they teaching about racism and resistance in history, they are putting it into practice today.