Mary C. Curtis: Rosa Parks' Other (Radical) Side

Roundup: Talking About History

[Mary C. Curtis is an award-winning, Charlotte, N.C.-based national correspondent for, and a commentator on Fox News Rising Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter.]

Rosa Parks was a demure seamstress who defied a Montgomery, Ala., bus driver's order to give up her seat to a white man because -- on that particular day -- she was tired. Her spontaneous act sparked a 1955 bus boycott that launched the civil rights movement.

Sound familiar? It should. It's the tale told in history books. It's also just a tiny sliver of the truth. The flesh-and-blood Rosa Parks is a lot more interesting. "It's sad, I think," author Danielle L. McGuire told me. "We tend to like our heroes simple and meek."

"If we had a larger sense of who she was, a radical activist and warrior for human rights," instead of a powerless individual struck by chance, said McGuire, it would show the work and the time she put in over many years.

McGuire, an assistant professor in the history department of Wayne State University in Detroit, tells the history of Parks' activism in her just-published book, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance -- a New History of the Civil Rights Movement From Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. She gives a name to a few of the many women who risked their lives by speaking about brutality and injustice. They claimed their dignity and womanhood in a society that refused to recognize either.

The struggle of black women in America is not over. There are hints of the fight, McGuire said, in some lingering attitudes toward the first African-American first lady, the idea that somehow "black women are not supposed to meet with kings and queens in Europe."...

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