Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rosa Parks: A new terrific (and timely!) resource

Rosa Parks's arrest on 1 December 1955 in Montgomery, AL, for refusing to move to the back of a city transit bus was a seminal event in the Civil Rights Revolution.  Of course we devote time to her story in our classes.

Good news: The Library of Congress announced today that it has fully digitized its collection of the Rosa Parks Papers.  In addition to thousands of images and written works, the collection contains a useful timeline of Mrs. Parks's life.

Better news: The Library had complemented the new digitized collection with a primary source gallery for teachers.  The teachers' gallery includes pdf versions of 15 primary sources.  My favorite item was Mrs. Parks's four-page handwritten recollection of her bus arrest.  She starts by answering the obvious question directly--Why did she choose that night to defy segregation?  Her answer was poignant, heartfelt, and direct: "I had been pushed around all my life and felt at this moment I couldn't take it anymore."

Also powerful is her handwritten description of segregation in Montgomery.  This is actually the document I would use with my students first.  Assign it to them to read, and then ask them to list the ways in which one southern town practiced segregation during the Jim Crow era.

Best news: This resource is available now, as we start planning to study the origins of the Civil Rights Movement with our students.

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