How General Motors Saved Rosa Parkstags: civil rights, Rosa Parks
On the evening of August 30, 1994, a young drug addict broke down the rear door of a home in central Detroit. Back then, during the peak of the Great American Crime Wave, such a story was depressingly familiar. Crime was so ubiquitous, such burglaries rarely made the headlines, even when they turned violent. This crime, however, was different.
The elderly widow who lived in the house discovered a drunk who claimed to have chased an intruder away. He demanded a tip. She went upstairs for her pocketbook and gave him three dollars. He followed her, demanding more. When she refused, he hit her. “I tried to defend myself and grabbed his shirt,” she later recalled. “Even at 81 years of age, I felt it was my right to defend myself.” Hitting her again and shaking her violently, he threatened worse. Terrified, she gave him $53.
The crime generated outrage because when the intruder Joseph Skipper entered, he recognized his victim. “Hey, aren’t you Rosa Parks?” Skipper asked. The civil rights legend answered “yes,” but it didn’t help. After the crime, it took 50 minutes before the police arrived. The street justice, however, was swift. “All of the thugs on the Westside went looking for him,” one friend recalled, “and they beat the hell out of him.”
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