A full history lesson in one article

By Jennifer Coots
February 22, 2001

by Jennifer Coots

Something rather disturbing occurred while my friend and I engaged in conversation the other night in the school library.

My eye caught a glimpse of a biography of one of the most predominant leaders of our time. Thinking aloud, I announced the name of the individual and to my horror, my friend turned to me and asked who the person was.

The awkwardness of that moment was defining, and the humiliation felt by both us, her for herself, and me for her, was unreal.

Imagine this, a twenty-year-old college student, who couldn’t put a face to the name or even identify one of the most remarkable and influential woman in American history, the mother of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks.

At this particular moment, I came to the realization of my own limited knowledge on the subject, and furthermore, set out to educate myself as well as others.

Rosa Parks is a woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in Montgomery Alabama in December of 1955, and was carted off to jail for doing so.

Although many credit the civil rights movement to Martin Luther King Jr., if it hadn’t been for Parks, no one would even know who King was.

The Woman’s Political Council at Montgomery’s Alabama State College ignited the bus boycott, which was immediately started after Parks’s arrest. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), whom Parks served as a secretary for, worked to defend Parks in court and stand against the vicious bus segregation laws.

While Parks’s case went to court, was lost, and then appealed in hopes of taking it to the Supreme Court, the bus boycott, which eventually was lead by King, occurred for over a year, with hundreds of blacks walking as much as 35 miles a day to and from work.

In November of 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was illegal, and in December, the segregation laws were officially crushed. Although a huge victory for the blacks of Montgomery, extreme hostility turned horrendous, as violence from whites against desegregation became severe.

Due to Parks’s involvement in the movement, both Parks and her husband lost their jobs, and her husband eventually became mentally ill, suffering from a nervous breakdown. The Parks’s received numerous threats each day from whites and constantly lived in fear.

But Parks survived the harsh treatment and became a leader and major influence on everyday life, which should not be forgotten or overlooked.

After a long hiatus of facts, my question is, what is happening to our education system? How can a student go through 12 years of schooling and not know who Rosa Parks is?

If students today are not taught these important historical facts, then we can assume that they are being taught nothing about other American history and the importance of appreciating history.

So, my advice to those who were victims of a failing education system, go to your local or school library. The shelves are loaded with fascinating stories and events that will educate the mind far better then a couple pages in a textbook.

Within the confinements of the word limit that my editor assigned me, after reading my article, I have done the jobs of your high school teachers. You know, at least briefly, the story of Rosa Parks and the figh

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Jennifer Coots

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