In recognition of Rosa Parks’ 100th birthday last Monday, Gwen Ifill corrects some common misconceptions about her:
We want to believe that a timid seamstress sat down on a city bus in December, 1955 and refused to give up her seat to a white man because she was just too tired. We want to believe that she was a solitary heroine who single-handedly desegregated public transportation in Montgomery, Ala., overnight. And we want to believe that she spent the rest of her days comfortably, secure in the knowledge that her meek, nonviolent approach to injustice made all the difference. …
She was not meek. She was not used. She was as fond of Malcolm X as she was of Martin Luther King Jr. Moreover, the Montgomery bus boycott did not transform America overnight. It took 382 days and hundreds of volunteers to force change, and that was years before the March on Washington. Parks and her husband Raymond lost their jobs and would not regain economic security until they moved far away, to Detroit.
(Photo: On January 31, 2003 at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan a man points out the seat that Rosa Parks refused to give up to a white man. The bus, once-decrepit after sitting in a Montgomery field for thirty years, underwent five-months of restoration to refurbish the vehicle to the way it looked on December 1, 1955 when Parks made her defiant stand. By Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)