Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and Jim Crow Education

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King struck down Jim Crow laws in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and ignited the Civil Rights Movement.

Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King  Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshots
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Montgomery Bus Boycott Mugshots
Education is the key to understanding the issues surrounding our lives and the lives of our families and communities. Understanding these issues led Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks to be arrested for leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 that began the destruction of Jim Crow laws. However, education and understanding were only the beginning of the journey to freedom in America.

I remember part of that journey because I was born just at the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement. The year that Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott was the year I began school, which was the year after Brown v the Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that was intended to end school segregation in education and other Jim Crow laws, which were in effect until 1965.

Legal mandate for desegregation went on the books in 1954,  spawning school busing. School busing spawned nationwide backlash against desegregation, affecting my education where schools stayed segregated until I graduated from high school. 

I did not attend an integrated school until I attended college. Because my mother prepared me for higher education, and not necessarily in segregated college education or one tailored for a woman, I was able to compete. However, without her constantly nagging for me to read and dragging me to museums and art galleries, I do not think I would have been able to attend a large white university that had a primarily with any amount of confidence. 

My mother, father and their ancestors believed that education was the key to my rising above a history buried under Jim Crow laws and so did Rosa Parks.

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, of which she eventually earned the title, 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. Under orders of Jim Crow laws, school buses were not permitted to transport black students. Below is a video sketch of the education of Rosa Parks, an excerpt from a YouTube Biography Channel program.

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), where Rosa Parks had studied Jim Crow laws as they pertained not only to African Americans but also as they pertained to women, especially, African American women. She knew first hand how black women, in particular, were treated on the buses of Montgomery, Alabama. She took the bus daily to her job in downtown Montgomery and suffered the ill treatment by bus drivers and other passengers. 

Most people know little of Rosa Parks' education and early career. They only see her as an elderly civil rights icon. This being the one hundredth anniversary of her birth may be the right time to explore, especially with young students, the real history this woman's education, career and contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks was a chief investigator for the NAACP's Legal Strategy on education and cases of rape against African American women. Her job was to find viable rape cases to bring to court in order to establish that violence, rape, murder and employment were being used as weapons to control the social, political and economic status, and overall behavior in the African American community.

Photo: Rosa Parks
Photo: Rosa Parks
The young Reverend Martin Luther King, not long out of college, who was literally thrust into the forefront of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, also fully understood discrimination, having grown up a black man in America. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were the perfect candidates for the job of leading a civil rights action against Jim Crow laws. From the beginning, Rosa Parks' and Martin Luther King's educations and experiences were preparing then for the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the I Have A Dream speech.

Martin Luther King was an educated man of deep thought and extensive training

Martin Luther King was a highly intelligent man, proof of which showed in his education and academic credentials. An examination of the education of Martin Luther King shows that his early in his education, King skipped both ninth and twelfth grades, tested his way out of high school at age 15 before graduation. He entered Morehouse College, where he earned Bachelor's degree in sociology. 

Montgomery Bus Boycott
Martin Luther King received a Bachelor of Divinity from Cozier College, while also studying at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1955, three months before Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and hurled King into national prominence, he received his Doctorate of Philosophy in Systematic Theology from Boston University.

First and foremost, before taking an action, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks had to study and understand the history of Jim Crow laws, civil rights law and methods that would legally destroy the framework for racial discrimination in the United States. Then, a viable plan had to be put into place. They chose a plan that involved nonviolence, which they also studied formally and also on their own. The nonviolent nonviolent plan led to the  The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which required a great deal of support from both black and white members and nonmembers of the community and various civic organizations. 

All these forces working together and timing their action brought about the change that led to the destruction of Jim Crow laws in the United States. The rest is history as we celebrate Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks for their roles in civil rights history.

Education is the foundation to understanding.

Understanding leads to positive action for some people like civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks.Nothing can lose a battle quicker than misunderstanding, with everyone running in different directions aiming at friends by mistake and taking down one's own side. 

Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks
Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks
If one cannot change the world like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, then one should strive to change one's own life in a positive way through education and understanding. Then, go on  to make whatever contribution you have available to you. 

There is no excuse for sitting life out on the sideline in a passive position and then complaining about what life won't let you have. 

Being born one hundred years ago, in 1913, nearly a generation before Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks was not as privileged with opportunities for education as Martin Luther King, who was born in 1929. A mere 16 years may not seem like a long time, but between 1913 and 1929, Jim Crow laws in America came under assault that led to a fatal blow in 1955 by Rosa Parks, who used the education and understanding she did have to make just as important a contribution in the Civil Rights Movement against Jim Crow laws as any human being in history.

Got more questions? Search Google!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Founding Fathers, Jim Crow Laws & Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King used the Montgomery Bus Boycott to challenge Jim Crow laws Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution facilitated.

Civil rights activists,  Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, led the Montgomery Bus Boycott to fight oppression nearly 200 years after the Founding Fathers helped create the system that soured into Jim Crow laws when the Framers wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Founding Fathers

From 1775 to 1783, the Founding Fathers and Framers, who were delegates to the Constitutional Convention, along with others of their kind, had witnessed America's victory in the American Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Although, these men may not have intended to set Jim Crow loose on American soil, their high ideals slipped into the wrong and hands. 

At the time of the American Revolutionary War, slavery, already an institution that began with indentured servitude, had not become the economic backbone of the nation, nor could the future financial development of this peculiar institution be predicted. However, slavery was in existence in the entirety of the nation, both the North and the South. However, many of the southern states that would become so dependent upon a slave economy had not yet been formed. 

The 13 original colonies, except, Rhode Island, sent delegates to the Constitutional Convention on February 21, 1787. 

Men who represented northern states were from Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Southern Founding Fathers were from Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Northern states were the first to free slaves. Southern states later became part of the Confederacy that fought the Union during the Civil War to preserve slavery.

These men had no idea that one day the civil rights activist, Rosa Parks, would resist the system of Jim Crow laws.

Montgomery Bus Boycott
 and the Women
Who Started It:
The Memoir of
Jo Ann Gibson Robinson

During the early days of slavery in the brand new contradictory democracy, no one could have foreseen roles for civil rights activists like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, who led the Montgomery Bus Boycott almost 200 years later. At the time of the American Revolutionary War, the social status of human beings in the nation was determined by gender, wealth and race. Simply put, this meant the new nation judged that equality was not for all people, especially people who were female, poor or nonwhite, and therefore, not citizens and, for some, not quite human.

In 1776, one year into the war, the founding fathers created the Declaration of Independence. 

The names primarily associated with the Founding Fathers were John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington. Some of these same men were also Framers of the U..S. Constitution. Neither group was comprised of men who were landless, illiterate poor men; they were politicians, jurists, statesmen, soldiers, diplomats, scholars and financial leaders, many with roots in English gentry. These men were, therefore, citizens and quite human by their own standards. Accustomed to being served by others, most of these men acknowledged slavery through policy, practice or ownership. After all, at the time of the framing of the Constitution, only one colony had abolished slavery. That was Massachusetts.

In 1787, the Framers created the Constitution of the United States.

Rosa Parks & the Montgomery Bus Boycott Legacy Rosa Parks, who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott,  was born 100 years ago.

Rosa Parks, 
Who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Was born more than 100 years ago
In the Heart of the Deep South
In the Midst of the Jim Crow Era

Two years later, the Framers added the Bill of Rights, all of which excluded slaves, free men of color, landless white men and all women. 

Exclusion was the beginning of the very legalized Jim Crow laws that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King fought during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, laws that should have been destroyed when Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation and then led the Union victory in the Civil War. Throughout modern history, movies have attempted to shed understanding on the subject of civil rights and Jim Crow laws.

As early as the Revolutionary War, however, the Founding Fathers did not seem to think of gender bias and slavery in moral terms--right or wrong--when they sat down and fashioned their Declaration of Independence. Later, the same was true of the Framers when they wrote the Constitution. However, their anti-slavery sentiments are evident in their writing and their widely varied ownership, which is documented in historical records. 

Founding Fathers' Attitudes on Slavery

John Adams
Signer of the Declaration
of Independence

John Adams, Massachusetts, did not own slaves; Benjamin Franklin owned two household slaves but espoused opposition to the institution of slavery; James Madison was against the slave trade but was a third-generation slave owner; George Washington became a slave owner at age 10 when his father died; and Thomas Jefferson owned nearly 700 slaves. Long before the Civil War, the Founding Fathers understood that human bondage had to be stopped to prevent the future destruction of the nation, but slavery was their heritage, passed down to them from their forefathers to be passed down to their offspring. Lives were grounded in a tradition that afforded them and their families certain benefits none were anxious to release.

Thomas Jefferson Signer of the Declaration of Independence

Thomas Jefferson
Signer of the Declaration
of Independence

CONSIDERATIONS Founding Fathers made in evaluating slavery were the economies of Colonial America and burgeoning territories, all deeply dependent upon slavery. Moreover, the colonies were at war for independence, while the wealthy and educated Founding Fathers formulated the doctrines of the new nation, founded on freedom and the equality of its citizens, a group that did not include poor white men, women or slaves. Male slaves were assigned a shadow of citizenship after the Civil War, which ended in 1865, three-quarters of a century after the Bill of Rights, when all the founding fathers were dead. 

Perhaps, without intention, the Founding Fathers left behind entangled webs of racial classification and misunderstanding for future generations to figure out and grapple with to this day. In fact, one rationale for the Civil War was to prevent slavery from spreading Jim Crow laws and traditions into western territories and then allowing those territories to become slave states and continue to enlarge the problem of slavery beyond the areas that had already been so insidiously infected.

Incidentally, many people do not realize there was slavery in Northern states. New York abolish ed slavery in the 1700s, but did not free all slaves at once, freeing slaves according to age and years of service. The condition of former servitude did not disappear with northern slavery. For example, some white New Yorkers so fiercely opposed draft into the Civil War and the emancipation of southern slaves there was talk of New York seceding from the Union to join the Confederacy. Some white New Yorkers invaded neighborhoods of free black New Yorkers, burned homes and businesses and killed black residents in protest. 

Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King Montgomery Bus Boycott booking photos
Rosa Parks & Martin Luther King
Montgomery Bus Boycott
Martin Luther King 

& Jim Crow Laws

Did the Founding Fathers Have a Clue?

During the Civil War, the reaction of some New Yorkers was no different from the reaction of former Confederate southerners during the Civil Rights Movement 100 years later, when Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott.