Wednesday, 02 November 2005, 22:32:07 EST
There is going to be some insensitive bitching in this post. This post employs MLA style citations. You have been warned. Also, while composing this post I found out that my site had disappeared (technically, just the "james" subdomain). It is clearly back. It seems my hosting provider has been troubles today with the machine this site resides on and it magically lost part of my site. A kind gentleman at Bluehost restored everything without any fuss.
Fall Semester 2004, I took a history class on United States history since Reconstruction. The professor that taught the class has a policy of assigning each of his classes a book to read, and review, each semester. Every semester it is a different book. That semester he assigned Parting The Waters: America In The King Years 1954 – 1963 by Taylor Branch. I didn't like the book because it literally put me to sleep every time I tried to read it. I ended up writing my review having only read twelve of twenty-three chapters; I think I made a B on the assignment. I did manage to pick up a few bits of knowledge whilst suffering the portion of the book that I suffered. One of those bits happens to be about something in the news lately that they just won't shut up about — Rosa Park's famous bus ride. What do you hear on television, the radio, and read in print recently about this historic event? That Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Is that the whole story? Hardly.
Have you ever heard of a woman named Claudette Colvin? I doubt it. On March 2, 1955, Miss Colvin refused to give up her Montgomery bus seat for some white passengers. She, a minor at the time, was hauled off the bus and arrested. Why haven't you heard about this? The black community leaders didn't think they could press a segregation case with Claudette because no one would back an unwed pregnant teenager who was prone to outbursts of profanity (Branch 120 - 123).
Before going on I would like to explain a bit about the bus segregation in Montgomery, AL at the time. The buses were essentially split into three sections: white [front], black [back], and "no man's land" (Branch 14). Basically, as white people boarded the bus they would fill in front-to-back and as black people boarded they would fill in back-to-front, meeting in the middle. The dividing line was arbitrary and imposed at the discretion of the bus driver. If the driver felt the the white section needed to extend further back he would do so, forcing anyone sitting in the then black, or limbo, area, now white area, to move back or stand as seating permitted. A completely retarded system and one that needed to be abolished, along with the rest of segregation, to be sure. But, thems was the breaks.
Okay, fast forward to December 1, 1955; the day Rosa Parks did exactly the same thing Claudette Colvin did — refuse to give up her seat in "no man's land." The only charge filed against her was that of "violating Alabama segregation laws." Long story short, Parks was a model citizen, other than this infraction, and just the person to become the poster child of bus desegregation. Knowing full well the danger of standing ground in this matter, she agreed to fight the charge. That is essentially the extent of her involvement — she consented to let others use her in a fight (Branch 128 - 131). Very brave and very noble. I am not saying otherwise. I am just tired of hearing a fifth of the story being told in the media. Yes, her stand sparked a great reform. But, she didn't refuse to give up her seat to be that spark. She was asked after the fact if she could be used as such. It was her consent to fight the charge in court, facing death by lynching or worse, instead of paying a $5.00 fine that was the true noble act.
I started to write this post a couple of days ago but decided better of it. When I heard about it again in the news today I got fed up. I really dislike the dissemination of incomplete, or just plain bad, information. It is probably my biggest pet peeve.
If this issue interests you, I highly suggest reading the book I referenced throughout this post. I can't bring myself to finish it; the subject just isn't that interesting to me and I don't like the author's writing or story telling style. He is thorough, though. The book is full of a lot of information that you probably won't get from any other single source. In fact, there is another volume in addition to the one I have. Check out Taylor Branch's website if you care. It is now way past my bed time.