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.

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    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

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Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. 

Sunny Nash writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement.

Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations. Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism. homepage

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