Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kenny Burrell – Jazz Guitarist At Work



Kenny Burrell-- jazz guitarist, composer and educator--lectures and performs at 80-something.



Kenny Burrell, 2007
Kenny Burrell, 2007
Continues to Train Generations
of Jazz Artists for Stage
Studio, Film, Television & Beyond

Kenny Burrell’s sound on his album, Man At Work, in 1966 was so rich, so mellow, so smooth, it was intoxicating. 


I think I would have missed out on that music had it not been for my mother, who loved both jazz and classical music--the mellower, the better.

Some of my friends thought my mother was being a bit pretentious, but her love for this music was real. And that's what we listened to at home when I was child, while my friends listened to this new thing, called Rock-and-Roll, in their homes, either on radio if they could receive a signal from Houston's black stations, KYOK or KCOH, or a record player if they had one.

We had a beat-up second-hand record player my mother picked up at a used furniture store. She placed the contraption in a corner of our living room beside her reading chair in front of the bookcase. No one--not me, my father or my grandmother--was allowed to touch my mother's records or her record player. She was very careful not to let the needle that touched the records become damaged. Once when I dropped the needle arm by accident on one of her records, I thought I would be banished from the house.

"A damaged needle," she said, "will scratch the records and they will become fuzzy with loosened vinyl and look something like a woolen sweater and I don't want you trying to play a woolen sweater on my record player." The end of her patience with me came when she caught me playing a borrowed scratched Chuck Berry record on her record player. The condition of the record dulled her needle. That's when she found another used record player for me to play my collection. I didn't get to play my records much because she was always playing hers. I finally lost interest in anything but jazz, especially jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell, and jazz vocalist and organist, Jimmy Smith.

Now, you've heard why my mother was fond of Kenny Burrell and Jimmy Smith recordings, such as their 1958, Softly as a Summer Breeze, and Blue Bash album in 1963. She said they met in a New York studio in the 1950s. That was about the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, initiated by Rosa Parks and lead by the emerging civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The following link leads to books on Rosa Parks, written for children about the age I was when the Montgomery Bus Boycott occurred.

My mother read magazines like Jet to keep up with everything from civil rights issues to black entertainers. She wanted to know what was happening in our Jim Crow world, including the Woolworth's sit-ins, so we could protect ourselves. "If you don't read, you won't know," she always said, as she buried her face in a book. Education was very important to her. She went to college later in life but did not get a degree. Her goal was to see that I got a degree and I did. Out my generation of twenty-something cousins on my mother's side of the family, I was one of four of my cousins that I know about to receive a university degree--me, Annette, Finner and J.W.

Johnson Publishing Company of Chicago premiered Jet Magazine in 1951 as a publication focusing on African American stars in sports, movies, music, education, social activism and civil rights. Jet came after a number of other efforts, including Negro Digest in 1942 and Tan Magazine in 1950. After Jet Magazine, Johnson Publishing produced African American Stars and Ebony Jr. Jet remains the number one news weekly for African American readers.

I believe my mother harbored dreams of singing professionally. As I recall her singing her original songs to me when I was a child, she had the voice to have been a professional singer-songwriter, although her songs sounded more like country music than anything else. 

When my mother died I found her songbook of lyrics and melodies she had written throughout her life. The songs told of a time past, a young girl wanting to go places, love found and lost, unfulfilled dreams, very small stories, personal stuff, not great big anthems. And I was right, my mother wrote country music. In regard to music, my mother said, she needed to  calm me down with music after a day out in my very noisy world.

Littie Nash
My mother, Littie Nash, wrestled with Jim Crow laws while giving me the life of a little princess with imagination and without the luxury of having a lot of money...Littie did not waste compliments on me or anyone else. She reserved accolades to celebrate real accomplishments, not just because I dragged myself out of bed before noon on Saturday or because I made an 'A' on my report card. "Some things you have to do," she said. "And those things pass, not without notice, but without an all-day hullabaloo."

To support my efforts, my mother sponsored piano, ballet, tennis and swimming lessons, dance performances, recitals, literary and classical music club memberships, summer camps, school trips and science fair exhibits, still managing to squeeze out of our tight budget money for the dentist to install braces on my teeth. It took a great deal of courage to live with dignity and raise me to have aspirations. About my upbringing, Littie got it right, although I took detours of my own along the way. Read more at: My Mother & the Thinkers.

Robert C. Weaver & President Lyndon Johnson
Robert C. Weaver
& President Lyndon Johnson
Buy Robert C. Weaver Books
Visit LBJ Library

As I recall, the world was a very noisy place in 1966 when I first began listening to Kenny Burrell. The year began with the Civil Rights Movement already raging in the Jim Crow South and splashing across television sets all over America and Stokely Carmichael introducing Black PowerIn 1966, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the first black cabinet member, Robert C. Weaver, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King questioned race relations in Chicago; the Vietnam War was cranking up; hippies became a movement with flowers as a mascot; hard rock and Motown fought for the airwaves; the mini skirt got shorter; drugs got easier; the pill caused a sexual revolution; and James Brown danced his way across the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show with I Feel Good!

I was there and my parents were wishing they were raising me in a different generation. They weren't. This was my time as I entered one of the most dangerous professions—the music industry--in a most dangerous time, a perfect storm, if you will, or at least it could have been for me and was for so many unfortunate others I met along the way.

Man At Work by Kenny Burrell, 1966
Man At Work by Kenny Burrell, 1966
In 1966, at the time of the release of Kenny Burrell's Man At Work, 45 years ago, I was 16 and starting her own music career in Houston, Texas, singing at jazz venues around the city such as the El Dorado Ballroom on Elgin Street with notables such as the 21-piece Conrad Johnson Orchestra, performing live on radio on Saturday nights, booked by Groovy George Nelson of KYOK. Yes, that's right. I picked up where my mother left off.

Musicians and vocalists, including me, loved Kenny Burrell's style and tried to copy and incorporate it into their own styling in some way, regardless of their instrument. Over the noise of the outside world, I listened to Kenny Burrell and tried my best to copy his phrasing with my voice. That’s how much his music moved me. Listening to this incredible musician, now, I still love his luscious sounds, 45 years later, with a special appreciation for the man who was then only 35 years old with so much of his life and career still to be explored.

Kenny Burrell, Classroom, UCLA
Kenny Burrell, Classroom, UCLA
Kenny Burrell MP3 Download Page
Kenny Burrell is a UCLA professor and Director of Jazz Studies, where he teaches jazz performance, jazz history, improvisation, composition, jazz combos, contemporary jazz ensemble, and ethnomusicology.

In 1978, Burrell developed a course on Duke Ellington, the first university course on Ellington in the United States. Burrell recorded a tribute, Ellington Is Forever, in 1975, one year after Ellington’s death in 1974. Known as Ellington’s favorite guitarist, although he never played with him, Burrell played banjo on Hot and Bothered by Ellington’s son, Mercer, in 1984.

Founder of the Jazz Heritage Foundation and the Friends of Jazz at UCLA, Burrell was named DownBeat Magazine Jazz Educator of the Year in 2004 and included in the African American National Biography by Harvard and Oxford in 2008. 

African American National Biography
African American
National Biography
I was honored when assigned Kenny Burrell's biography by the editors of the African American National Biography, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, and to be among 1,700 scholars to contribute. The many categories include performing arts, business, education, medicine, government, literature, law, music, religion, science and many others. My category was music: Rhythm & Blues (R&B) and Jazz. Using my knowledge of music, performing experience, journalism education and understanding of the history of race relations in America, my biographies included jazz guitarist, Kenny Burrell; jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player, Clark Terry; and pioneer R&B singer-songwriter, Ben E. King.

According to Harvard, Gates and Higginbotham hope the books will be used by scholars and will have a place in schools, libraries, and in African American homes. “What better way to understand the richness, complexity, and depth of African American history than through biography, because people’s lives are so complex,” says Higginbotham. Review and purchase the African American National Biography, a compilation of more than 4,000 articles on the contributions of African Americans to the history of the United States and the world. Also on the link, see other related titles on this subject.

Cowels Women's History Special Collectors Edition
Cowels Women's History
Special Collectors
Edition
I wrote music biographies of Marian Anderson, contralto,  and mother of the blues, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey in 100 American Women Who Made A Difference, for a special issue of the Cowels publication, Women’s History Magazine; edited BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way, a book of profiles on black women who made a difference in the history of Long Beach, California.

My articles on Kenny Burrell, Clark Terry and Ben E. King appear in the eight-volume African American National Biography with more than 4,000 other historical biographies, covering 500 years, dating back to the arrival of Esteban, the first recorded African explorer to set foot in North America.  The African American National Biography is a collaborative project between the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, the Oxford University African American Studies Center and the Oxford University Press.

I have followed Kenny Burrell's career for many years. When  discovered that the former State Department Cultural Ambassador is teaming up with John Hasse, a leading jazz historian from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, for a series of lectures and exhibitions to address jazz as a diplomatic tool to communicate to the world the importance of the art form as a ‘cherished aspect of American society and culture,' I thought it was worth bringing to your attention. The presentation is entitled Fowler Outspoken: Kenny Burrell and John Hasse on Jazz Diplomacy, at the UCLA Fowler Museum through August 14, 2011.

By the end of this series at Fowler, Kenny Burrell will have turned 80 years old, the new 60 by today's calculations. If I don't get to say it in person, I am saying it now, "Happy Birthday, Kenny! You have had a profound effect on my life and you changed the way I heard the world. Thank you."

Over all the noise, I heard the sound of his fingers gliding gently over the strings and striking sweet little chords among subtle harmonies fading slowly and disappearing into emerging and surprising resonance and, at the same time, emitting that hypnotic sound of skin on wood.


© 2011 Sunny Nash
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

~Thank You~
________________________________

Or take a look at the Kenny Burrell Amazon display below.





Friday, February 18, 2011

Jim Crow Laws, Education and the Justin Morrill Land Grant College Acts



Justin Morrill fought Jim Crow laws from 1862 until 1890 to pass Land Grant College Acts to allow the establishment of black colleges.


Justin Smith Morrill U.S. House & Senate (1855 -1898) "Father of Land Grant College Acts" (1862 &1890)
Justin Smith Morrill
U.S. House & Senate
(1855 -1898)
"Father of Land Grant
College Acts"
(1862 &1890)


Justin Morrill’s first Land Grant College Act, passed in 1862, providing public land sales to fund public higher educational institutions, was a direct threat to Jim Crow laws. The exact language was, "An act donating public lands to the several states and territories which may provide colleges for the benefit of agriculture and mechanic arts." The threat is implicit in the fact that black education would become a subject of debate.

This meant that the schools established under the jurisdiction of former Confederate states were Jim Crow laws dictated public schools and higher education, white only, excluding former slaves from higher education. In an effort to guarantee higher education for the former slave population, Morrill was finally able to pass a new Land Grant College Act for public colleges in 1890. This law prohibited Jim Crow states from using their 1862 federal land grant funds for the education of white students only.

The Morrill Land Grant College Act specified that former Confederate states cease claiming separate but equal colleges for different races, unless they divided public federal land auction funds appropriately for the college education of former slaves. If former Confederate states operating under Jim Crow laws did not comply with the Morrill Act, they would lose federal land grant college funding or have to allow all students, regardless of color, to attend their formerly segregated schools.

In former slave states, still operating under Jim Crow laws, the 1890 College Land Grant Act threatened local order, custom and southern convention with civil rights for African Americans. Congressmen representing those states were at odds with the law and Morrill for introducing it. However, southern congressmen had no choice but to agree to public college education for African American students because they did not want their existing public colleges to be subject to integration as Morrill’s law mandated.

Agricultural & Mechanical Training Black Colleges 1890s To Improve Literacy & Employment
Agricultural & Mechanical Training
Black Colleges 1890s
To Improve Literacy
& Employment
Eventually Morrill got his way, in spite of the friction he probably caused among his fellow congressmen from the South and others living in the South. Each southern state without an African American Land Grant College by 1890 established one under the second Morrill Act. Throughout the South, this Act established sixteen black public colleges and universities, known as the 1890 Land Grant Institutions. 

As America transitioned from rural agricultural to  urban industrial, the Land Grant College Act of 1890 extended higher education to those formerly excluded. The act also expanded education from exclusively normal school or teacher training to include in science, agriculture and engineering, as well as classical studies previously reserved for the clergy, teachers, physicians and lawyers, which had been considered the domain of the white male elite, leaving out black students and poor white students like Morrill had been.

ustin Morrill Family at Home Morrill Home, Strafford, Vermont
Justin Morrill Family at Home
Morrill Home, Strafford, Vermont 


Justin Smith Morrill, born in Strafford, Vermont, in 1810, was the son of a blacksmith making enough of a living to tend his family and homestead and not earning enough money to spend on Morrill’s education when he came of college age. Morrill, who deeply believed in education for his own sake, as well as the good of the nation’s youth and others who wanted to attain a better life, was forced to leave school at age 15. His family could not afford to send him to a college or university, all of which were still private institutions at that time. These private schools were expensive and mostly available only to wealthy students. Instead, Morrill went to work as a clerk in a general store  and later entered a partnership in a mercantile business. Morrill's mercantile career in Strafford and Derby, Vermont, spanned 1830 to 1896. Lack of formal academic training did not prevent Morrill from educating himself in architecture, landscaping and gardening. He designed and built an impressive Gothic Revival home in Strafford, Vermont, the place of his birth.

Mercantile District, Vermont 1880s
Mercantile District, Vermont 1880s
Vermont Historical Society (Montpelier 05609-0901) says, Upon completing his two years with the Harris’s, Morrill went to Portland, Maine, and worked as a bookkeeper for Daniel Fox’s West Indies shipping business, and then in the dry-goods business of Jeremiah Dow. In 1830 he returned to Strafford and was requested to help close and settle the mercantile business of the late Ralph Hosford, and his partners, Latham and Kendrick. After completing that job he again worked for Jedediah Harris and the 1834 became his partner in a store known as Harris and Morrill. It was located in the lower village in Strafford but eventually they operated two additional local stores, plus one in Derby Line, Vermont. In 1840 Harris and Morrill joined with N. S. Young to form a new partnership known as Morrill, Young, and Company, and operated a store in the Upper Village. Based on evidence in this collection Morrill was also involved in businesses known as Morrill, George and Company (ca. 1845-1851), with Alonzo George (1822-1895); and Morrill, Russ, and Company (ca. 1850-1851).

ustin Morrill Homestead
Justin Morrill Homestead
Although still nominally involved in several partnerships, Morrill effectively resigned from business in 1848. At the time of his early retirement from business Morrill was preparing to build a house in Strafford in anticipation of his 1851 marriage to Ruth Barrell Swan (ca. 1820-1898). In 1855 he began a long and distinguished career in public service. From 1855 Morrill represented Vermont first as a congressman then in 1866 as a senator where he gained recognition for his Land Grant College Acts of 1862 and 1890. Justin and Ruth Morrill had two children: Justin Harris (1853-1855), and James Swan (b. 1857). Because of his long tenure in government the Morrills built a house in Washington, D.C. but maintained the house in Strafford. Justin Morrill died in 1898.
  
Morrill was unable financially to attend college and knew many other young people, black and white, who were in the same predicament. Still obsessed with education after being elected to Congress in 1855, his goal became focused on making United States a place that would provide an affordable higher education to its populace, both black and white. Also after going to Congress, his other interest was the mercantilist theory of commerce, about which he made speeches and promotional efforts.

Greensboro, North Carolina, 1890s Downtown had a number of brick & granite structures.
Greensboro, North Carolina, 1890s
Downtown had a number of brick
& granite structures.

The 1890 Land Grant College Act established North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University (NC A&T) when North Carolina's General Assembly "mandated a separate college for the colored race," satisfying Morrill’s law and the ‘separate but equal’ requirements of the former Confederate South. This new legislation provided for black higher education--although separate but not equal--that the first Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1862 had provided for white students only.

By February 1, 1960, which was the start of the Woolworth's sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, discrimination that had been the status quo in the South for decades was becoming harder for some young black students to tolerate. Fueled by the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, led by Rosa Parks, times and attitudes were changing. Promises of Emancipation in 1865 that had not been kept, had grown stale nearly 100 years later and people, talking in the churches, neighborhoods and classrooms, had become restless. Among those young and restless black students were four NC A&T freshmen, to become known as the Greensboro Four. 

Woolworth Sit-ins Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond
Woolworth Sit-ins
Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain,
Ezell Blair, Jr. (Jibreel Khazan),
and David Richmond


Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond made history when they sat down at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. The well-dressed, soft-spoken young men had planned their assault on Jim Crow laws in the Jim Crow South when they designed and executed the nonviolent Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth's Sit-ins. Follow link for the related article. or there will be other opportunities for the link later in the post.

These laws prevented African Americans and others of color from being served a meal at Woolworth’s Five & Dime lunch counter, even after they had spent their money in the retail section of the store. Adopting local customs regarding race, based the color of a patron’s skin, the policy public and private facilities like Woolworth’s was uniformly enforced throughout the South and some parts of the West, North and East.  

Clara Luper Arrested For Protesting
Clara Luper Arrested
For Protesting
Deliberately and thoughtfully, the Greensboro Four sized up the matter and devised a plan of nonviolent protest, the sit-in. Sit-ins were not new in America but no sit-in had the impact on American society like the one led by the Greensboro Four. In fact, in 1958, Clara Luper led the first sit-in in U.S. history to be publicized. As a result, she integrated Katz Drugstore lunch counter in Oklahoma City and motivated similar actions in other parts of the state, contributing to the integration of Oklahoma An Oklahoma I Had Never Seen Before: Alternative Views of Oklahoma His (Google Affiliate Ad). The publicity stirred up by Luper’s achievement prompted other groups and individuals like the Greensboro Four to launch sit-ins around the nation.

North Carolina and other parts of the Deep South, as well as the rest of the United States had a long and painful history of segregation and discrimination. After the Civil War, however, attempts were made during Reconstruction to dismantle the old Jim Crow system, a body of legislation restricting opportunities along racial lines that was firmly in place from 1877, the end of Reconstruction, until the middle 1960s. Jim Crow was a way of life, instituted during slavery and later sanctioned by the 1896 Supreme Court Decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, a case involving an African American man suing the railroad on the claim of discrimination because he was prevented from using his first-class train ticket. He lost. African Americans lost. The nation lost.

“Who was Jim Crow?” I asked my grandmother in 1960 when I was nine years old.

“A minstrel show character with a shiny painted black face and big white lips,” Bigmama told me. “Two nations under God, one ‘white only’ and the other one ‘colored.’ They wrote laws to keep us from using their restrooms, drinking from their water fountains, trying on clothes in a store, eating with them, going to school with them, marrying them and being buried under the same dirt with them.”

Allen Preyer III Son of Woolworth's Sit-ins Observer, Greensboro NC
Allen Preyer III
Son of Woolworth's Sit-ins
Observer, Greensboro NC
“But my father was no hero of the civil rights movement,” wrote Allan Preyer III, white Greensboro resident who was seven years old in 1960. He was simply a representative of his generation of white Americans, prompted to examine his attitude toward race in America by circumstances, beginning with his witnessing the events of February 1, 1960, in Greensboro. Like many, his evolution of thought was sometimes bold, sometimes reluctant, and never fully free of the conditioning of his youth. But something about my vicarious participation in my father's experience opened my young eyes to the generation of everyday heroes all around me: the young African American girl who eased shyly into my fourth-grade classroom, integrating my public school; the young African American boy who first integrated my previously all-white boarding school; and literally thousands of others who broached hurdles less recognized than the Woolworth's lunch counter.” 

Library of Congress 1890
Library of Congress 1890
During his tenure as a Representative from 1855 to 1867, and Senator from 1867 to 1898, Justin Smith Morrill is credited with creating the Library of Congress and the Washington Monument, in addition to establishing the Morrill Land Grant College Acts. His legacy, however, is helping black and white students to acquire what he could not—a college education.

Morrill's legacy, though, is his push for an educated American populace. The following list sketches the Land Grant Colleges by the date they became Land Grant Colleges, not the date they came into existence. For a complete list of Land Grant Colleges established by the Morrill Land Grant College Acts of 1862 and 1890 in the United States of America and their history, visit: List of Land Grant Colleges.




When I wrote my book, Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's, there was no FaceBook, which requires precautions against political correctness. because communications one key stroke away from insulting someone.

Follow Sunny Nash @ Twitter
Follow Sunny Nash
Communications have changed and are light years ahead of the tools I used writing my book and columns on a personal computer. I had no idea how easy it would become to inflict  political incorrectness.


Join Sunny Nash on Huffington Post
Also join me on Huffington Post for my comments and discussions on civil rights, race relations, politics, style, entertainment and other pressing issues of the day.


_________________________________________________


Paying for College  By Peterson's (COR)
Paying for College
By Peterson's (COR)
(Google Affiliate Ad)
Everybody Else's Guide  to Getting Into College:  Even If You're a Procr
Everybody Else's Guide
to Getting Into College:
Even If You're a Procr
(Google Affiliate Ad)
Parents today can get help from a number of sources, including books currently on the market. There are many easy-to-use tools and other products with chapters dedicated to specific preparation methods and lists of preparation resources that can be consulted by students, parents and counselors.

Students pay attention to getting into college, as well as college scholarships and other means of paying for college. A significant difference in going to college today and going to college years ago is the expense. Like everything else, a college education that requires loans can leave a student in debt for decades after graduation. 

________________________________________

Some land grant colleges still sponsor full scholarships to qualifying students. For example, USDA/1890 National Scholars Program is a program that combines efforts of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the colleges establish under the Morrill Land Grant College Act of 1890, an act in which Justin Morrill wrote legislation to include funding for Historically Black Land-Grant Universities to educate students of former slave families in higher education. For more information on this scholarship program, follow the link above. 

To get even more insight into the civil rights era, read my book,

Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's by Sunny Nash
Bigmama Didn't Shop
At Woolworth's
by Sunny Nash

Sunny Nash Author, Producer Photographer
Sunny Nash
Author, Producer
Photographer
Chosen by the Association of American University Presses as one of its essential books for understanding race relations in the United States, Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolwort's (Texas A&M University Press) by the award-winning author, Sunny Nash, is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide to Black Studies by the Schomburg Center in New York and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida.

Robin Fruble of Southern California said, “Every white person in America should read this book (Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s)! Sunny Nash writes the story of her childhood without preaching or ranting but she made me realize for the first time just how much skin color changes how one experiences the world.  But, if your skin color is brown, it matters a great deal to a great number of people. I needed to learn that. Sunny Nash is a great teacher,” Fruble said.

Sunny Nash’s book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, can be purchased from all major bookstores and by following the link below.

BuyBigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s by Sunny Nash


Related Articles by Sunny Nash

Woolworth's sit-ins by black and white college students in Greensboro NC between February and July 1960 integrated lunch counters
across the nation.

Race relations in America and Southern California were changed by 12 African American women who made a difference in Long Beach, featured in historical profiles,
BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way.


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© 2011 Sunny Nash
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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When using text and images from the blog, please include Credit & Link.
By Permission of www.sunnynash.blogspot.com  

~Thank You~

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus Boycott & Jim Crow Law


Rosa Parks challenged Jim Crow laws, igniting the Montgomery Bus Boycott, when she refused to give up her seat and set the tone for the Woolworth's sit-ins four years later.


Photo: Rosa Parks on bus after Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Parks after Montgomery
Bus Boycott 1956
On December 1, 1955, a beautiful, smart, high-school educated, hard-working, 42-year-old seamstress, named Rosa Parks, boarded a bus after work. Like every weekday, she sat down on a seat designated 'black seating.' Stop to stop, the bus filled, leaving no vacancies in the white section. The bus driver, familiar with this situation, ordered Rosa Parks to move from her seat to allow more seating for white passengers.

Rosa Louise McCauley, born in 1913 and raised on her grandparents' farm in Alabama, was accustomed to inferior social treatment since she was a child, long before the start of the modern Civil Rights Movement began. In fact, Rosa Parks went on to become known as The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

In order to get an education, Rosa Parks walked to school because the same Jim Crow laws that prevented her from attending white schools in Alabama, also prevented her from riding  the school bus when she was a young student. The school buses were not permitted to transport black students in the Jim Crow South. Below is a video sketch of the education of Rosa Parks, an excerpt from a YouTube Biography Channel program.

video

Jim Crow laws were in effect from 1876 to 1965. For more videos on race relations in America, Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, iksunny.

Rosa Parks eventually went back and finished high school after she married Raymond Parks, who also encouraged her to join him in working with the Montgomery National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Sign: No Spanish or Mexican  
Sign: No Spanish or Mexican
Rosa Parks wanted more opportunity. A person of color who had been denied decent treatment by society all of her life, Parks had finally had enough and refused to move when the bus driver ordered her to another seat. I can only imagine what must have been going through the mind of a woman who was fed up with it. recognized the fed-up expressions on the faces of my mother, grandmother, father and others I knew when I had seen them in similar situations.

Again, the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks to move to another seat in his attempt to enforce a Jim Crow law that mandated racial segregation of all public and private facilities and separate but equal facilities for customers, clients, students, patrons, patients and  passengers who were black or people of color.

Photo: Segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Bus, Birmingham Public Library, via NPR
Segregated Alabama Bus
Source: Birmingham Public Library
Via: National Public Radio
Jim Crow laws required blacks to give up seats to whites, as needed, determined by bus drivers. If whites were standing because their section of the bus was filled, the driver corrected the situation by ordering black riders to move from their seats to allow whites to sit instead. When Rosa Parks would not move from her seat, the bus driver haled a policeman to assist him in the matter.

I was six when the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. I knew about it because the Nash family took newspapers from all over the country and they explained to me what was going on. "It's a way of life that is ending," my mother said. "Nothing personal, just the end of a way of life. Are you ready?" I had a vague notion of what this meant but not really.

My family tried to protect me from the harshest of it all. There were places we didn't go. And that, I learned later, was to avoid the shame of it all. My mother only took me to segregated places that were absolutely necessary to my life--the doctor, bus station, movies, school and other public facilities where my presence was needed. We didn't eat out very often because restaurants required us to enter through a rear door, sit in an inferior location or walk up to an outdoor window to order and receive food. My cousin, Joyce, reminded me the other day that at the bus station in her home town required African Americans to eat their orders in the baggage room at discarded desks retrieved from a local school.

Book: Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's by Sunny Nash
Bigmama Didn't Shop
At Woolworth's
by Sunny Nash
In the excerpt below from “Movies—Not Just Black-and-White,” one of the essays in my book, Bigmama Didn’t Shop At Woolworth’s, I write about the first time my mother took me to lunch and the movies. It was about to rain that Saturday afternoon but my young mother agreed to take her little daughter to the movies anyway:

Without reply, my mother dug into her tiny cloth coin purse and paid. Time passed as slowly as it could before her change and our food arrived. “Y’all can’t eat in here,” the cook said. Without a word, my mother grabbed my hand and dragged  me to the back door. As we stood outside and ate in silence, I thought I saw a tear sparkle on my mother’s cheek as the day’s last sunlight stroked her face. With a few drops of rain falling on us, we took the short walk to the Palace Theater and stood at the ticket window outside the main lobby. The aroma of buttered popcorn floated through the little round hole in the glass where the ticket woman worked. To avoid getting wet in the shower, the moviegoers dashed through a glass front door into a dry, comfortable lobby filled with tiny white lights, velvet draperies, and red carpet. By the time my mother and I got our tickets, big drops of rain were splashing down on our heads. With her hair heavy with water, sliding into her face, my mother dug into her tiny cloth coin purse and paid. The little blue door on the outside of the theater slammed us inside the darkest place I’d ever been—like a coffin, I thought, holding my mother’s hand. 

Littie Nash
Littie Nash

My mother, Littie Nash, wrestled with Jim Crow racism during the 1950s and 1960s, while giving me the life of a little princess with imagination and without the luxury of having a lot of money...Littie, the ultimate stage mother, did not waste compliments on me or anyone else. She reserved accolades to celebrate real accomplishments, not just because I dragged myself out of bed before noon on Saturday or because I made an 'A' on my report card. "Some things you have to do," she said. "And those things pass, not without notice, but without an all-day hullabaloo."

To support my efforts, my mother sponsored piano, ballet, tennis and swimming lessons, dance performances, recitals, literary and classical music club memberships, summer camps, school trips and science fair exhibits, still managing to squeeze out of our tight budget money for the dentist to install braces on my teeth. It took a great deal of courage to live with dignity and raise me to have aspirations. About my upbringing, Littie got it right, although I took detours of my own along the way. Read more at: Great Mothering in Jim Crow's World 

AS EARLY AS 1943, Rosa Parks refused to board the bus using a rear entry, the door for black bus riders. Parks and her mother had always refused to enter the bus through the rear door, while other black riders bad to use the rear door. Rosa Parks had challenged Jim Crow bus policy in Montgomery twelve years before she  boarded the bus on December 1, 1955, and started the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Nine months before the boycott, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was dragged off a Montgomery bus by police, handcuffed and jailed on March 2, 1955. Her case, got little notice and no support. Review and purchase Claudette Colvin at links on left. 

Photo: Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks
On December 1, 1955, ordered by the bus driver to move, Rosa Parks refused. Did she make the decision alone? In her words, she says, we waited so long to make this protest, indicating the protest was decided, not by herself, but in concert with others. Why was Rosa Parks chosen to spark the boycott? Was it because she had a history of protest? Was it because she worked with the NAACP? Was it because she was part of a larger plan? 

"The only thing that bothered me," Parks said. "Was that we waited so long to make this protest."


“People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired,” Rosa Parks wrote in her autobiography, “but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

Photo: A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt
A. Philip Randolph
& First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt,
Who, Like Randolph, 
Supported Civil Rights
in the Armed Services,
& Pilot Training Programs
At Tuskegee Institute
Rosa Parks was arrested, fingerprinted and paid a fine of fourteen dollars for refusing to follow bus driver’s orders, but was not jailed. Parks called Rev. E.B. Nixon, president of the Montgomery NAACP, a group with which Parks had worked diligently for some time as youth leader. Nixon called the Washington D.C. NAACP, a group that decided "to move on it today."  Read below to see that there was more to Rosa Parks's interest in the Civil Rights Movement than integrating buses. Rev. A. Philip Randolph and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., were brought into the Montgomery Bus Boycott quickly to organize efforts.

Asa Philip Randolph, born in 1889 in Florida, studied in New York and formed the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925; helped form the Fair Employment Practices Committee; and threatened to organize a protest in Washington against discrimination in the armed forces and defense industries in the 1930s and 40s. In 1955, he joined the AFL-CIO executive council and was vice president in 1957. Randolph helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington. He died in 1979.

video
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was in his mid-twenties at the time of the boycott, and had been the pastor at Dexter St. Baptist Church in Montgomery for only a short time when he became the official leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which led him to later become the leading figure in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Rosa Parks Booking Photo
Rosa Parks
Booking Photo
Photo: Martin Luther King Jailed
Martin Luther King
On December 5, 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott officially began. Signs and fliers announced to those who did not agree with policy that they should not ride. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and 91 others were prosecuted for starting the bus boycott.

Because two-thirds of the bus riders in Montgomery were  black, the NAACP was well aware that this bus boycott would strike a serious blow to the financial condition of the bus system. The black population of Montgomery at the time was about 40,000. If the entire black population participated in the boycott along with whites who were supporting the boycott or those trying to avoid trouble, then the total participation could have exceeded 50,000, which was the estimate of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). More on the MIA later. 

Photo: Montgomery Bus Boycott in Rain
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rain, Shine, Sleet & Snow
People Walked to Work,
Church and Everywhere

In the dead of winter, most people around the nation were beginning to prepare for their annual shopping traditions, gift selecting and wrapping rituals, rich and savory family holiday dinners. While Christmas and all the celebrations were in the air, Montgomery bus riders tackled the weather in coats, hats, scarves and rain gear. But they stayed off the buses. Montgomery citizens lost jobs, either because they couldn’t get to work or they were fired out of hostility. Non-the-less, they simply refused old racist treatment. Following Rosa Parks and her courageous action, people used carpools and walked to work and every other place they had previously ridden buses. 

Photo: Montgomery Bus Boycott walking to school and work
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Protesters Walking to Work & School
Many white citizens were against the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It threatened racial status quo. What is slow to be revealed is that some white sympathizers tried to participate in the boycott by providing black workers rides to work. Some say this seemingly generous action was selfish on the part of whites who wanted the work done.

Observers of the historical event say the action of mostly white housewives may have started out as a way to get their maids to work, but ended up with them providing rides to other black workers, as well. I have not been able to locate any photographs of whites driving black workers during the boycott. Perhaps pictures of whites driving blacks are scarce because some whites in the Jim Crow South were careful not to be identified with the growing Civil Rights Movement, which would have made them vulnerable in their own racist communities.
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Whites, along with blacks who were providing rides during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, were refused taxi permits to prevent them from carrying passengers in their private vehicles. When these white drivers provided rides anyway, they were harassed by Ku Klux Klan members who were often law enforcement and just as often their neighbors. Identified as bus boycott affiliates, black and white drivers reacted nonviolently. The Klan, however, turned violent, bombing the homes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and E.B. Nixon. 

Photo: Martin Luther King MIA Meeting, Rosa Parks in Front Row
Martin Luther King
Conducts MIA Meeting
Montgomery Bus Boycott


MIA was organized specifically to address the needs of the bus boycott. This predominately black community group was made up of  blacks and whites with a basic goal of improving race relations in Montgomery, Alabama. Martin Luther King, Jr., (right) conducts an MIA meeting in 1955. Rosa Parks is seated in the front row.

Through two consecutive Christmas Holidays, with me and the world watching, this non-rider policy in Alabama continued through rain, shine, sleet and snow and over again for more than a year, 381 days. On November 13, 1956, the Montgomery Bus Boycott ended when the United States Supreme Court decided that segregation laws were unconstitutional.

Photo: Rosa Parks boarding bus after Montgomery Bus Boycott
Black Montgomery Bus Boycotters Boarding Bus
Through Front Entry after Supreme Court Decision
Rosa Parks Leading the Way
Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his book, Stride Toward Freedom, "with a mixture of anxiety and hope, I read these words: 'The United States Supreme Court today affirmed a decision of a special three-judge U.S. District Court in declaring Alabama's state and local laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional. The Supreme Court acted without listening to any argument; it simply said 'the motion to affirm is granted and the Judgment is affirmed. At this moment my heart began to throb with an inexpressible joy. The darkest hour of our struggle had indeed proved to be the first hour of victory."

After her husband Raymond died, Rosa Parks co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Institute for Self Development, in February 1987 with Ms. Elaine Eason Steele, in honor of Raymond Parks (1903-1977), "the living legacy of two individuals who committed their lives to civil and human rights."

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Rosa Parks is a hero, we all agree. Without her bravery and commitment, race relations in America would not have progressed at the speed it did. Parks, however, had a great deal of assistance in changing the the Jim Crow South. We have to remember in our quest for education on the civil rights era that there were churches, organizations and lots of people involved. Many individuals, who began with one sentiment, ended up with a totally different view of race.

What I now know that I did not know as a child  is that many white people also felt burdened by that way of life, some of whom grew up a few blocks from me and attended separate schools but, later, became my closest friends. They were children back then, just like me, inheritors of the tradition. These were the same people who joined the marches, broke the old hiring rules and changed their minds after generations of  careful conditioning by family and society.

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Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, affected race relations in America and early Hollywood, in that, studios had to change with the new racial climate that had relegated black actors to servants' roles and mirrored pre-civil rights America.

In The Rosa Parks Story Angela Bassett becomes Rosa Parks in a portrayal of the legendary civil rights heroine that seems more real than performance. The article covers aspects of Rosa Parks' life and the Montgomery Bus Boycott with photographs and videos.

Woolworth's sit-ins by black and white college students in Greensboro NC between February and July 1960 integrated lunch counters cross the nation. 

Race relations in America and Southern California were changed by 12 African American women who made a difference in Long Beach, featured in historical profiles, BREAKING THROUGH Lighting the Way.