- February 7, 2019
- 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
- Headquarters Library, Barrett Room, 151 S Church St, Spartanburg, SC
- (864) 596-3503
View Map | Cost: Free
Rosa Parks Portrayed by Becky Stone
Sometimes when the status quo needs to be shaken up, it is necessary to take a stand. Other times, one must courageously take a seat.
Rosa Parks is best known for being arrested for sitting in the wrong bus seat. But Parks was not an apolitical, middle-aged lady whose fatigue kept her seated. Both shy and militant she led a rebellious life that was Revolutionary!
When the history of this country is written, when a final accounting is done, it is this small, quiet woman whose name will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten.
– US Senator Barak Obama Nov 3, 2005 Rosa Parks Funeral
This Performance will take place during Rosa Park’s Birthday week.
Opening music: by TBA
Free Show and Free parking
Becky moved to Western North Carolina from Philadephia, PA 40 years ago and discovered storytelling. Already a trained actor, Becky found storytelling to be a delightful change. She has performed as a teller, an actor, singer, and dancer for 45 years while raising 4 children, teaching, directing, and co-publishing a small garden quarterly, GreenPrints, with her husband who is the editor. Becky began her Chautauqua career in 2002 when Greenville recruited her to portray Pauli Murray. Since then, she has created Chautauqua History Alive performances of Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou.
Although Rosa Parks was a powerful woman ensconced in a 5′3″ body, Becky says she needs every inch of her 6′ foot body to portray this larger-than-life Revolutionary.
Becky holds a BA from Vassar College in drama and a MA in Education from Villanova University and for more than 20 years has been is a regular story-teller at the Biltmore Estate.
Rosa Parks: Change Rocks the Balance by Becky Stone, MA
Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shining and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations. – James Baldwin, Letter to My Nephew on the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation
All change creates stress; even change for good. – Gary McFadden MD
Throughout its history the United States of America has been in a perpetual state of tension regarding race relations. But periodically change rocks the tenuous balance that had been maintained for so long. So it was in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama when Rosa Parks said “No” to driver James Blake when he demanded that she change her seat on “his” bus.
There had always been an uneasy truce between black and white folks in the South. When emancipation seemed to offer personhood and citizenship to black Americans, white Americans resisted change by returning to slave-master protocol enforced by Jim Crow law. These laws went beyond the restrictions of segregation. They were designed to make black people feel inferior and white people, superior. To step out of bounds meant anything from verbal threats to arrest to lynching. Blacks could seek justice in a court of law, but it was standard practice for white witnesses to lie and for judges to sentence unfairly. In the ninety-two years from emancipation to 1955, African Americans had achieved some measure of economic success through education and hard work. By 1955, the black leadership was well organized and driven by a passionate desire for change. The gun was cocked. They just needed the right person to pull the trigger. That person was Rosa Parks.
Rosa was the perfect client to challenge the bus segregation law. She had the bearing of a Southern lady and the heart of a warrior. Her parents and grandparents had raised her to think of herself as honorable with the God-given right to be treated with dignity. She married a man who looked white but was fiercely proud of being black. He was an activist in the NAACP. Rosa became involved with the NAACP much against his desires. “Parks”, as she called him, was always concerned for her safety. However, he never interfered with Rosa’s work. She was familiar with the struggle for justice through her role as secretary for the president of the local NAACP chapter. Rosa, determined to exercise her right to vote, finally voted after doggedly attempting to register three times. She was a woman of patient persistence. Yet in spite of her willingness to confront authority, she was soft-spoken, polite, demure. A devout Christian, she preached and practiced a gospel of love. Her behavior was above reproach.
By 1955, Black Southerners were primed to take a stand. They had witnessed the abusive reception black American soldiers received when they returned home after World War II. Black veterans were often beaten, sometimes murdered, even while in uniform.
In 1953, the black population of Baton Rouge Louisiana had successfully boycotted their bus system for two weeks. Black Southerners had been energized by the 1954 Supreme Court decision to uphold Brown versus the Board of Education that desegregated public schools.
The year 1955 leading up to the boycott teemed with important events. Rosa attended the Highlander Folk School in East Tennessee that summer. It was an integrated educational facility for those interested in workers’ and civil rights. It gave her a new perspective and hope in the possibility of change.
That same summer, the nation was horrified by the murder of Emmet Till, a black 14-year old from Chicago who was brutally slain in Mississippi for the crime of speaking inappropriately to a white woman. In September in Selma, Alabama 29 blacks petitioned for the immediate desegregation of Selma’s public schools. Sixteen petitioners lost their jobs. The black community boycotted the only dairy in town to protest the firings. One of the boycott leaders was abducted and severely beaten.
In Montgomery a 15-year old student, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger. The NAACP did not use her as a test case because she was pregnant and unmarried. In October, another woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, but the NAACP rejected her case when they found that her father was a drunkard. You can imagine their delight when they got the call that yet another black woman had been arrested for the same offense and she was Rosa Parks.
The bus system had always been a sore point in the black community. Jim Crow laws in Montgomery forced black passengers to the back of the bus, but if a white passenger was standing, blacks were expected to give up seats in their own section. Black passengers were not allowed to even sit across the aisle from white passenger. Blacks had to get on the bus in the front to pay their fare and then get off the bus and re-enter at the back door. Sometimes, drivers would drive off without allowing them to board the bus. The bus driver was the ultimate authority on the bus. He carried a pistol to enforce his decisions. All of these restrictions were imposed on people who composed 60% of their clientele.
The decision to boycott this system came as inspiration when Rosa Park’s court date was set for Monday, December 5th. The black population was asked to boycott the buses on that day as a show of support. No one knew if it would be successful. All the leadership had asked for was one day. But that day was the beginning of 13 months of boycotting. The Montgomery Improvement Association was formed with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the helm. And Rosa was their hero – the model of self-possessed decorum, a shining example of non-violent resistance.
No one – black or white- knew what would happen when the boycott began – how long it would last, how violent it would become, how many changes it would bring. However, when the boycott ended new leadership had emerged, new tactics had been proven successful, and the modern civil rights movement had begun.
When Rosa Parks died in October 2005, she was the first woman and just the second African American to lay in honor at the nation’s capital.
1913 – Born in Tuskeegee, AL
1932 – Married Raymond Parks
1943 – Parks joined the NAACP. Parks became the secretary of the NAACP chapter under E.D. Nixon. Parks was thrown off the Cleveland Street bus by James Blake, the same driver who,12 years later, tried to make Parks give up her seat.
1949 – Advisor to Montgomery NAACP Youth Council, the beginning of a life-long commitment to youth
1955 – December 1, Parks refuses to give up her seat and is arrested. The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins
1956 – June, the Supreme Court finds bus segregation unconstitutional. December, the Bus Boycott ends.
1957 – Parks moves to Detroit after too many death threats
1963 – Parks participates in the Great March to Freedom in Detroit and the March on Washington for Jobs and Equality
1965 – Parks began 23 years of work as head of Rep. John Conyer’s Detroit staff
1987 – The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development established
1996 – President Clinton awards Parks the Medal of Freedom
1999 – Parks receives the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor
2005 – Rosa Parks dies
All I was doing was trying to get home from work.
Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.
Each person must live their life as a model for others.
I would have compromised my dignity if I had buckled one more time to the white establishment and relinquished my seat.
Your behavior must be above reproach . . . this is how you gain the respect of others.
Segregation itself is vicious and to my mind there is no way you could make segregation decent or nice or acceptable.
Love, not fear, must be our guide.
At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this, … It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”
Have you ever been hurt and the place tries to heal a bit, and you just pull the scar off of it over and over again.
Rosa Parks: A Life by Douglas Brinkley (2000.) A biography that paints a thorough portrait of the times, the locale, the people involved in Rosa Parks’ life as well as giving a well-rounded perspective on the woman. Well researched and written.
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Anna Theoharris (2013.) Defines Rosa Parks’ self proclaimed “life history of being rebellious.”
Quiet Strength by Rosa Parks with Gregory Reed (2000.) A collection of quotes from Rosa Parks organized by topic and illustrated with some photographs. Meant for inspiration. Gives an intriguing impression of the woman. Does not offer much information.
Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins (1999.) Rosa tells her life story. Gives a much clearer impression of Rosa. Very readable. Written for youth.
African American History of Greenville by Leola Robinson 2007.