Friday, November 11, 2011

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

Today, I wanted to share what I think is a little known fact about the Montgomery bus boycott.

Now, we all know the standard story. One day, Rosa Parks was coming home from work and decided that she wasn't going to give up her seat on the bus to a white guy. She got arrested, and a year long bus boycott ensued. Finally, the bus company caved and decided to let black people sit wherever they wanted. Pretty straightforward, right?

The little known fact part is that Rosa Parks didn't just spontaneously say, "Oh Lawd, I am just too tired to move to the back of the bus today." The boycott had been planned for quite sometime; they already had the mimeographs ready to go publicizing it once she got arrested. They were originally going to have a teenage girl (her name was Claudette or Cassandra or something like that,)  because they thought it would be a good strategic move to have a child get sent to jail. They eventually decided against her though, because she was an unwed mother and they didn't think that would make her the best poster person.

I think this fact is important because it shows that the boycott from the very beginning was a very deliberate, organized act. It challenges the narrative of the sassy, outspoken black woman. Now, there is nothing wrong with sassy and outspoken black women, but it is always helpful to add to the variety of representations of how black women are/can be in the world.

The reason that I think this is a little known fact is because the only place that I have ever heard about it is in an elective class that I took my freshman year of college. There were probably like 15 of us in the class, but for some reason we were placed in a lecture hall that could seat 500. That last part isn't really relevant to the story, but I share it because I always thought it was weird.

I am curious to know if you knew this, and if you did know it, how/when you learned about it. So, if you'd like to share that answer with me, or just talk about anything else that's been on your mind, leave me a comment.

Oh, also Happy Veterans Day and Happy 11/11/11. I made one heck of a wish at 11:11 today, and I hope you did too (:


  1. I did not know this, but like learning the details of these sort of things. Thanks for enlightening me.:)


  2. I didn't know this and I always thought of Rosa Parks as a sweet, timid but confident woman. This reminds me of the book, My Name is Not Isabella. It's about a little girl who pretends to be other people and one of the people is Rosa Parks. I love the book.

  3. I knew it was a deliberate act because I took a class for my Poli Sci degree called Race, Gender and Public Policy. I did not know about Claudette/Cassandra.

  4. Anonymous5:38 PM

    Yes I knew that it was well thought out. It was not by accident. I think a learned this in college and my further readings on race relations in the US. Very few things just happen spontaniously.

  5. I don't recall where i learned of this but I think it was probably watching something on pbs. I seem to remember something like they knew they had to pick someone willing to go through this (miss work the next day...) and maybe something like they were deliberate in having someone whose record was clean - reputation was stellar. Upstanding, hardworking, honest christian woman/wife something like that. I didn't recall hearing about the actual boycott and flyers mimeograhed in advance, just the actual bus incident and rather certain possibility of arrest. anyway, sorry for such a long response to just say i had hear of this. probably not TOO many years ago, though. just within the last couple/few... (Gary S.)

  6. Chunk Hotzumomo1:13 PM

    They probably had you in the huge classroom so the university would appear, on paper, to have a larger student population with an interest in diversity. See, we have our diversity classes in these huge rooms.

    I had a vague idea of this from watching pbs documentaries. I have watched a few on the civil rights movement, and yet, the movement has always been a bit vague. That is probably a problem of documentaries. I watched the Civil War one too, and probably could not give one solid fact from it. I remember the North changed generals like fifty times. Hooker was especially bad.

  7. I took a Race, Class, and Diversity class in college and I think that might be where I heard this before as well. I think it's incredibly interesting about the mimeographed sheets...obviously it was very well organized and thought out.

  8. Yes I had heard about how Rosa Parks was vetted and selected, that she was a long time activist who engaged in carefully planning the action. I wish the folks down at Occupy Denver would be as careful in planning their actions!

  9. Anonymous6:28 PM

    No, I didn't know that. Uplifting info.