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The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

5047The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement. 

"In the first sweeping history of Parks's life, Theoharis shows us . . . [that] Parks not only sat down on the bus; she stood on the right side of justice for her entire life." —Julian Bond, chairman emeritus, NAACP 

"At last, Jeanne Theoharis answers the question, who was Rosa Parks? The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks will undoubtedly be hailed as one of the most important scholarly contributions to Civil Rights history ever written. Theoharis details Parks as a radical, independent, careful and lifelong activist who has been unfairly frozen in a single time and place: 1955 Montgomery. Theoharis liberates Parks from this singular moment and finally asks the questions that previous journalists and scholars seemed insufficiently curious to ask. And the answers will surprise readers. I can't wait to assign this book in every class I teach.” —Melissa Harris-Perry, Host, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Show 

"Jeanne Theoharis brings all of her talents as a political scientist and historian of the Civil Rights Movement to bear on this illuminating biography of the great Rosa Parks, whose symbolic act in 1955 made her an icon of the movement and whose lifelong commitment to social justice made her something even more profound: a multidimensional political actor in the hard-fought (and ongoing) battle for equality and full citizenship." —Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

"Charisma is not a word often used to describe Rosa Parks yet we have to recognize her star. The Rosa Parks challenge to the political system was deep and lasting even while she never raised her voice. The first female Speaker of the House of Representatives once said, 'You can get a lot done if you don't need to take credit for it.' She took a page from the book of Parks. Theoharis' scholarship brings forth a woman whom many followed without ever realizing they were. She was courageous and strong. She also had a wonderful sense of humor. And an awesome sense of responsibility. This is a much needed book on the woman who is, arguably, the most important person in the last half of the twentieth century. Just as the Lincoln Memorial needs a statue of Frederick Douglass gently bending over with a pen in his hand for Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. needs a statue of Rosa Parks just one or two steps ahead mouthing the words: 'Come on, Dr. King. We've got work to do.'" —Nikki Giovanni, Poet

When Rosa Parks died in October 2005, she became the first woman and second African American to lie in honor at the nation's capital. Yet much of the memorialization reduced her historical contribution to a single act on a bus on a long-ago December evening. In this revealing and comprehensive biography-the first critical treatment of Parks's life-historian Jeanne Theoharis shows that the standard portrayal of Rosa Parks as a quiet and demure accidental actor is far from true. 

Presenting a powerful corrective to the popular iconography of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who with a single act birthed the modern civil rights movement, Theoharis excavates Parks's political philosophy and six decades of political work to reveal a woman whose existence demonstrated-in her own words-a "life history of being rebellious." From her family's support of Marcus Garvey to her service with the NAACP in Alabama in the 1940s and 1950s, and from her courageous bus arrest and steadfast efforts on behalf of the Montgomery bus boycott to her work in Detroit challenging Northern racial inequality on behalf of a newly elected Congressman John Conyers and alongside Black Power advocates, Parks's contributions to the civil rights movement go far beyond a single day. Even as economic hardship and constant death threats exacted a steep toll on Rosa and her husband, Raymond, she remained committed to exposing and eradicating racial inequality in jobs, schools, public services, and the criminal justice system. 

In The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, Theoharis masterfully details the political depth of a national heroine who dedicated her life to fighting American inequality and, in the process, resurrects an inspiring civil rights movement radical who has been hidden in plain sight far too long. 

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What Reviewers are saying about The Rebellious LIfe of Mrs. Rosa Parks:

Kirkus Reviews: “How Theoharis learned the true nature of this woman is a story in itself. Parks always stood in the background, never volunteered information about herself and eschewed fame. There were no letters to consult; even her autobiography exposed little of the woman’s personality. She hid her light under a bushel, and it has taken an astute author to find the real Parks. Even though her refusal to give up her bus seat sparked a revolution, Rosa Parks was no accidental heroine. She was born to it, and Theoharis ably shows us how and why.”

Booklist: “Historian Theoharis offers a complex portrait of a forceful, determined woman who had long been active before the boycott she inspired and who had an even longer career in civil rights afterward.”

Publishers Weekly: "Theoharis submits a lavishly well-documented study of Parks’s life and career as an activist.”

Library Journal: "Verdict: This meticulously researched book is for everyone; advanced middle school and beyond."

Introduction to The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by