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"I Don't Believe in Gradualism": Rosa Parks and the Black Power Movement in Detroit

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Abstract:

Rosa Parks had never been a meek seamstress. "I always felt it was my right to defend myself if I could." Having believed in self defense since she was a young person, she had long been a steadfast critic of the racism in the criminal justice system, and a proponent of the far-reaching social change necessary to ensure real black equality. In 1967 she told an interviewer, "I don‚t believe in gradualism or that whatever should be done for the better should take forever to do." To her, black demands often got mired in delay, in committees, reports, and bureaucracy meant to give the appearance of progress without actual change. Even the summer before the bus boycott she had refused to join fellow activists at a meeting with city officials, " had decided I would not go anywhere with a piece of paper in my hand asking white folks for any favors." The lesson of the boycott was clear. "As long as we formed little committees and went to the bus company and asked to be treated like human beings and continued to travel on the bus nothing happened."

Unable to find work and facing persistent death threats in Montgomery, she and her family moved to Detroit in 1957 where she would remain politically active for the next forty years. Parks‚ political activities and associations in 1960s and 1970s Detroit exemplify the continuities and connections between the civil rights and Black Power movements. Indeed, as she worked in newly-elected John Conyers‚ Detroit office on issues such as housing, welfare, and police brutality, Parks took part in the emerging Black Power movement. A set of political commitments which had run through her work for decades˜-self defense, demands for more black history in the curriculum, justice for black people within the criminal justice system, independent black political power, community empowerment˜- intersected with key aspects of the Black Power movement. Indeed, Rosa Parks appeared at rallies sponsored by the all-black Freedom Now Party, was a regular visitor-participant to Vaughn‚s bookstore and the Shrine of the Black Madonna where Detroit‚s militants often congregated, served on the People‚s Tribunal after the 1967 Algiers Motel police killings during the 1967 Detroit riot, attended the 1968 Black Power conference in Philadelphia and the 1972 Gary Convention, spoke at the Poor People's Movement Solidarity Day rally, and worked to promote black history in community-led programs and initiatives.
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Name: 96th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p522193_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Theoharis, Jeanne. ""I Don't Believe in Gradualism": Rosa Parks and the Black Power Movement in Detroit" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p522193_index.html>

APA Citation:

Theoharis, J. ""I Don't Believe in Gradualism": Rosa Parks and the Black Power Movement in Detroit" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p522193_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: Rosa Parks had never been a meek seamstress. "I always felt it was my right to defend myself if I could." Having believed in self defense since she was a young person, she had long been a steadfast critic of the racism in the criminal justice system, and a proponent of the far-reaching social change necessary to ensure real black equality. In 1967 she told an interviewer, "I don‚t believe in gradualism or that whatever should be done for the better should take forever to do." To her, black demands often got mired in delay, in committees, reports, and bureaucracy meant to give the appearance of progress without actual change. Even the summer before the bus boycott she had refused to join fellow activists at a meeting with city officials, " had decided I would not go anywhere with a piece of paper in my hand asking white folks for any favors." The lesson of the boycott was clear. "As long as we formed little committees and went to the bus company and asked to be treated like human beings and continued to travel on the bus nothing happened."

Unable to find work and facing persistent death threats in Montgomery, she and her family moved to Detroit in 1957 where she would remain politically active for the next forty years. Parks‚ political activities and associations in 1960s and 1970s Detroit exemplify the continuities and connections between the civil rights and Black Power movements. Indeed, as she worked in newly-elected John Conyers‚ Detroit office on issues such as housing, welfare, and police brutality, Parks took part in the emerging Black Power movement. A set of political commitments which had run through her work for decades˜-self defense, demands for more black history in the curriculum, justice for black people within the criminal justice system, independent black political power, community empowerment˜- intersected with key aspects of the Black Power movement. Indeed, Rosa Parks appeared at rallies sponsored by the all-black Freedom Now Party, was a regular visitor-participant to Vaughn‚s bookstore and the Shrine of the Black Madonna where Detroit‚s militants often congregated, served on the People‚s Tribunal after the 1967 Algiers Motel police killings during the 1967 Detroit riot, attended the 1968 Black Power conference in Philadelphia and the 1972 Gary Convention, spoke at the Poor People's Movement Solidarity Day rally, and worked to promote black history in community-led programs and initiatives.


Similar Titles:
A Social Movement of Social Movements: Conceptualizing a New Historical Framework for the Black Power Movement

"The Triangle of Black Power: The Relationship between the Black Power Movement, the Black Arts Movement, and Black Studies"

Navigating Forgotten Histories: An Oral History Approach to Understanding the Life Experiences of Black Detroit High School Student Activists of the Black Power Movement


 
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