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The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  984 ratings  ·  160 reviews
2014 NAACP Image Award Winner: Outstanding Literary Work – Biography / Auto Biography

2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians 

Choice Top 25 Academic Titles for 2013

The definitive political biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging perceptions of her as an accident
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Beacon Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Bill Kerwin
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing

Jeanne Theoharis is a straightforward scholar and committed progressive whose purpose is to reveal Rosa Parks as the lifelong lefty she undoubtedly was, but Theoharis is also too good of a researcher and too dedicated to the truth not to reveal the many biographical ironies in Mrs. Parks' story. I'm a progressive too--one of the quieter, more contemplative sort--and the presence of multiple ironies in this biography is one of its aspects I find most interesting.

The first irony is tha
This book is a biography of Rosa Parks (1913-2005), she who is often called the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”. It was she who refused to get off the bus, refused to relinquish her seat to a white man on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama. Two other black women and a black man did, but she didn’t! She remained in her seat—a forty-two-year-old black seamstress on her way home from work on a day like any other. She was a secretary at the Montgomery branch of the NAACP.

The author, Jeanne Theoharis, has written a scholarly work which provides insight into the lifetime activism of Rosa Parks. Most people only know of her arrest for refusing to give up her seat, to a white man, on a city bus, in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955. However, Parks was active both before and after this heroic and historic event.

The book covers Parks' family background and early life. Further, information is detailed on the organizations that Parks worked with durin
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it

Although this book was only 244 pages, short for a biography, it took me quite a while to get through it. I had wanted to read it ever since it was published and I learned much I hadn't known before, so I can only think that it was something about the writing style which made for a somewhat dry read.

The premise put forth by Jeanne Theoharis is that Mrs Parks has been relegated to being thought of as only a nice little lady who refused to give up her seat on the bus in 1955. The resul
Rob Slaven
Jan 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As is usual, I received this book as part of a GoodReads drawing. Despite the kind consideration of receiving a free book I give my candid assessment below.

The main topical thrust of this book is to set the story of Parks’ life in its proper light from her initial involvement in the Civil Rights movement well before the famous Bus Incident until she finally received the Medal of Honor in 1999. Mythology paints Parks as a frail matronly figure who just happens to do the right thing at
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rosa-parks
I have to say that this is a great book about the life of Rosa Parks. This book has totally change my idea of who she was and all that this intelligent, persevering woman did. She was truly remarkable. She was not only a dedicated activist but also a strong woman of faith. Rosa's belief in self-defense and collective action stemmed as well as from her Christian faith. "From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for the rights just as the children of Israel stood up to the ...more
Mikey B.
Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it

Statue of Mrs. Rosa Parks on Capitol Hill, Washington DC

Truly an inspiring figure in recent American history. Mrs. Rosa Parks had many obstacles to overcome in her life – foremost the racist and violent environment in Alabama.

The author points out a number of factors that led up to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on December 1st, 1955. This did not happen in isolation. Mrs. Parks had ridden innumerable times on Montgomery city buses and there had been many incidents similar to hers before. Mrs. Parks was
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing account of the life of Rosa Parks. The only pity overall is that there are a lot of papers and other written information about her that cannot be accessed as it is up for sale but for about $10 million! However, what has been left for researchers is abundant and is a wonderful read for anyone not very familiar with Rosa Parks as a person and I'm sure a very good read for those that are familiar with her story. In the book we see Rosa Parks before the great moment in 1955 and her active l ...more
Excellent biography. Theoharis probes Rosa Parks' iconography (the tired, meek seamstress; a single, unplanned moment ), looking at how it was created and has been deployed both by the civil rights movement and, in more modern times, by those who want to suggest that the US is now 'post-racial.' At the same time, she shows how Parks in fact was much more than her role as a symbol would suggest, having been active in civil rights long before the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, and having continu ...more
Katie  Hanna
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is SO GOOD. (I know, I know--I keep saying that. But it's TRUE. I can't believe how many amazing books I'm getting to read this semester. #happygradstudent)

New life goal: Be like Mrs. Parks.

Because she totally rocks, y'all. I mean that in the best way possible.
Chris Burd
Oct 25, 2015 rated it liked it
If I were rating based on the content alone, this book would be a 5-star without doubt. The recently released archives of Mrs. Parks personal papers and letters and Ms. Theoharis' diligently researched treatment of her life is, at least to my knowledge, as yet unparalleled. You will not think of Rosa Parks (or possibly the Civil Rights Movement) in quite the same way after reading this book.

However, this book deserved a better editor. I suspect that there may have been a rush to get
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful tribute to a Woman who deserved to get her accolades while living. This was the first book that I have read that gave a look into the life of Mrs. Rosa Parks background in the politics of the day. Never would I have known that her Grandfather was a follower of Marcus Garvey. Never would I have known that her husband Mr. Raymond Parks was a supporter of the Scottsboro Boys. There are lots of wonderful things that I learned about her and her family from this book. To know that she ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
While at the Rosa Parks museum in Montgomery last month, I got the first inkling that her legacy as I'd learned it in school was partially mythologized. This book confirms it. She's quite different from what I'd always assumed. Complex, interesting, and largely misunderstood.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am always disappointed when I see a History Day project that buys into the image of Rosa Parks as a quiet and unassuming every person. Theoharis, like the previous revisionist work, At the Dark End of the Street, takes on the far more uncomfortable truth--that the quiet image was created at the time for very specific reasons, but that Parks had a long history taking on some of the thorniest problems of the Civil Rights movement--researching sexual assaults against women of color (which, against lynch ...more
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I saw the author on Book TV and decided I had to read this book. Mrs. Parks has been minimized to a bus ride - surely that ride made a huge impact but she was SO much more.

This book showed me who Mrs. Rosa Parks really was - a lifelong activist. Her mother was a teacher and instilled in her a value for education. Mrs. Parks was an educated woman who was always working to better the cause of the Black person in the South. Her involvement started with the infamous Scottsboro boys case,
Jul 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I finished this the other day and am still forming a response to this book. I will post a view at a later day, but for now, there is one point that niggled me throughout the entire book.

Rosa Parks was truly an amazing woman, strong and prideful and was passionate about equal rights for blacks. I was and am still astounded by the classcism that existed in 1950s Montgomery, Alabamba. To think, less than 100 years out of slavery, and in the Jim Crow south class lines were drawn. Class p
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-jnm
A very good look at the totality of Rosa Parks' life. I learned a lot about Rosa Parks and her continued involvement in the push to achieve civil rights and justice for black people in the US. Parks' story is so much more than the day she remained sitting on the bus in Montgomery AL.

Criticisms of the book: I found Theoharis to be a repetitive writer. Also she relied on/heavily quoted from the papers of the white activists that Parks' interacted with. This is likely due to better pres
Mar 18, 2013 rated it liked it
I knew very little about Rosa Parks beyond her historic refusal to move to the back of the bus in December 1955 in Montgomery, AL. The author succeeded in showing me that Rosa Parks was much more than just that one defiant act. She was a civil rights activist all along, even before MLK. The book is a bit dry and academic. I would like to see a biography of Parks that examines more of her life on a personal level.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I am grateful for the glimpse into the life of this activist woman, who was so much more than a bus rider. However, the second half of the book was difficult to get through; too much repetitive detail and complaining from the author.
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There was a lot more to Rosa Parks than the saintly seamstress with the tired feet schoolchildren learn about. This book takes a look at her tireless activism, as well as the price she paid for being the 'heroine' of the Montgomery bus boycott. Part of the reason the Montgomery community coalesced behind the boycott was because Mrs. Parks was already known to many due to her organizing and activism, as well as her demeanor. She has been sold short for years, partly due to the intentional shaping ...more
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: af-am-non-fic
A thorough and corrective biography to the simple cultural story that exists about Rosa Parks and her "one time action" aboard a Montgomery bus. The author argues persuasively that Mrs. Parks was a tireless worker for justice for decades both before and after the bus boycott, and faced terrible personal consequences for her action. Mrs. Parks was a soft-spoken but steely-resolved female leader in the Civil Rights movement, often pushed aside by the male leadership, but making a huge difference i ...more
Amy Taylor
Jan 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
On one hand, I really enjoyed learning more about Rosa Parks. She was an outstanding person who stood up to the wrongs in society and made a difference! Not many people can say they did that. There was much I did not know about Ms. Parks and feel it's a shame that much of her work is generally unknown.

That being said, it is unfortunate that this book gives way too much information! It became very tedious to know about every meeting with every person in every location at every time sh
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, free-reviews
I received this book free and freely give my honest review. The Rebellious life of Mrs. Rosa Parks brings an awareness of the struggles of the past. Not only does it highlight the life of Rosa Parks but also the key players in the freedom fight of the time. Jeanne Theoharis, the author of this book described Mrs. Rosa Parks in detail and by the end of the book you feel her spirit living in the pages. Most people learn a little about Rosa Parks in school and the changes that were made because of ...more
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Mrs. Parks was a rebellious soul & for that she commands a high level if respect. She believed in equality for all & never gave up the fight for equal treatment under the law.
While I'm glad that Ms. Theoharis has documented what happened to Mrs. Parks after 12/1/55, it's appalling to know that she is taught as quiet, non threatening, & tired. It takes courage, strength, and faith to fight for freedom. Mrs. Parks was a fighter her entire life. It is not enough to talk loudly, one mus
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I liked this book so much that after I returned my finished copy to the library, I bought a copy to have, loan out, and re-read at home.

I can't remember the last time I read a book that so completely changed my view of something I thought I understood. This book kept me on the edge of my seat, upending assumptions and myths on every page. Heart-breaking at times, inspiring throughout. The truth about Rosa Parks is so much more fascinating that the fable. It's important that the truth
Scott Schneider
Mar 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot about Rosa Parks from this book. She struggled financially for over a decade after her bus incident because no one would hire her, not even the NAACP, until John Conyers won his seat in Congress and hired her. She was a big fan of Malcolm X, despite her close association with King. She was a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War. She was a quiet warrior for the poor and blacks. It was a good book, but a bit too scholarly. It did puncture the "fable of Rosa Parks" effectively though.
Erin Logan
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
For some reason, we tend to learn about Rosa Parks, the quiet, reserved seamstress who politely refused to give up her bus seat. This was not the real Rosa. This book chronicles her life from childhood to the harassment she received after the bus boycotts were over. She was a renegade, y'all!!
I read a lot of eye-openers in this one, especially for someone who did not live through the 1950s or '60s. I was shocked to learn she altered clothing at a shop that would sell to black people, but t
Oct 12, 2013 rated it liked it
This is one of those books that will change your perceptions and have a lasting impact if you're as historically unaware as most people (I include myself in that category) This book is well written and very well researched. The story of the "real" Rosa Parks is absolutely fascinating even if at times the book has an academic tone that sometimes makes for slow reading. Its forgivable though because the knowledge gained is well worth the effort.
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I thought Jeanne Theoharis's book on Rosa Parks was simply wonderful. Such a marvelous woman! And yet too underwritten in history and by people in general. And the racism still goes on. Rosa had a biography worthy of her.
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't read much non-fiction. This book was educational, and looked at Rosa Parks whole life, not just the one main act that she is so well-known for. I donated this book to my daughter's 6th grade classroom. The teacher was thrilled to have it! It is a great addition to any student library!
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Jeanne Theoharis is professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She received an AB in Afro-American studies from Harvard College and a PhD in American culture from the University of Michigan. She is the author or coauthor of four books and articles on the black freedom struggle and the contemporary politics of race in the United States.
“When asked what gave her the strength and commitment to refuse segregation, (Rosa) Parks credited her mother and grandfather "for giving me the spirit of freedom... that I should not feel because of my race or color, inferior to any person. That I should do my very best to be a respectable person, to respect myself, to expect respect from others.” 3 likes
“Time and time again, she sought to show the roots—the legitimacy—of black rebellion. It galled her that black people were often told to wait, to be patient and not angry. She had long hated the ways black rebels were seen as freaks or demonized for their refusal to submit.” 1 likes
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