Question: In what ways did Rosa Parks’ background and situation lead to a largely successful boycott, while other, similar resistances did not?
Part A: Plan of Investigation:
Rosa Parks was not the first African American to resist segregation on public transportation, but the effect her resistance had on American history dwarfs that of the others. This historical investigation explores the reasons behind Parks’ success and on the other hand, why similar acts of resistance did not have the same effect. To answer this, it is important to understand Parks’ life before the incident, in addition to what kind of image the NAACP was looking to portray through the icon of this major movement. To further discern the factors affecting her outcome, several similar cases are examined. This investigation primarily utilizes secondary sources from the Internet, such as “Standing Up for Freedom,” published by the Academy of Achievement, which details the life of Rosa Parks before her resistance on the bus. In addition, Margot Adler’s article “Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin,” is heavily referenced in this investigation and explores the accounts of people like Parks, who resisted on public transportation.
Part B: Summary of Evidence
Several links to advocacy for racial equality are evident in Parks’ childhood and background. It was her own mother’s advice to take advantage of every opportunity that came along, as she knew they were not extremely abundant. Unfortunately, Parks’ background was not all about inspiring, motherly advice. As stated in an interview, she often overheard Klu Klux Klan activities such as lynching and burning down the houses of African Americans at night. Understandably, she was fearful that she would become the victim of such activities (Academy of Achievement). At age 11, Parks enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, which was founded by Alice White and Margaret Beard, liberal minded women from the north. This was one of the few places an African American girl had a chance at a decent education. Here, they taught skills they knew would benefit African American girls in the current social situation, such as cooking, sewing, and housekeeping, but a philosophy that they could be more; They did not have to set their sights low because they were black (Whittaker). Later in life, Parks attended Alabama State Teacher’s College and joined the NAACP with her husband in 1932. By 1950, she had risen to become the NAACP’s local secretary (Cannizzaro). Looking into Parks’ background, it is not difficult to see that she had been primed to be a catalyst for social change since her early childhood.
African Americans had been resisting racial injustice on public transportation long before Parks’ debut, which raises questions as to how the outcomes of their attempts were so different. Fifty-nine years before Rosa Parks, Homer Plessy challenged the unjust 1890 Louisiana Separate Car law, which stated that blacks must...