Thursday, February 07, 2013

Communications: The More You Know

When communications sometimes gets lost in the shuffle it can sometimes compromise historical wisdom and shortchange our understanding of great people and important events. 

A new book celebrating  the 100th Anniversary of the birth of a civil rights icon — The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks proves that. The book — was discussed in a column by Charles Blow  in the February 2 edition of TheNew York Times.

In 1955, Rosa Parks, a black woman, became famous for breaking custom and segregation rules by not surrendering her seat on a bus to a white man.  That one act alone made national news and became one of the key factors in kicking off the national civil rights movement. 

The communications gap here was the little-known — but very important — fact that Mrs. Parks  grew up aware of and distressed about the treatment of blacks by whites and the public policy in the South that supported it. 

She was a civil rights activist for nearly two decades before the bus incident, which was the culmination of her activism, rather than an instant reaction or a refusal to get up because her feet were tired.  Although the latter reason was reputed as her rationale, in reality, Rosa Parks said, “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

"The mother of the freedom movement” was not the first person to resist bus segregation.  Others had been there before her, including Irene Morgan, Sarah Louise Keys and Claudette Colvin.  But NAACP organizers believed that Mrs. Parks was the best candidate in terms of following through on a court challenge after her arrest for civil disobedience.

But for most people, I assume, and certainly for myself, I knew little more than the commission of a critical act and not much about how she got from point A to B.  The back story has been omitted for too long.

The more you know, the better you can understand.

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