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Rosa Parks Day
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Celebrating the legacy of Black women who dared to disrupt business as usual
When is it?
- Annually on February 4th
Still searching – we still haven’t found a book about Rosa Parks that I’m willing to recommend without reservations.
We’ve probably read about 30 (all the ones I can find, at least) picture books, graphic novels, and board books about Rosa Parks. Most reduce her decision and her courage to whim, erasing her strategic genius and collaboration with the NAACP. Parks’ disruptive resistance was carefully planned and deftly executed, and it kicked off the start of the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott. Erasing the intention and intelligence behind her protest worked to gain white sympathy in the media at the time – but through the modern lens, we’re erasing how brave she really was.
Even though I have many issues with the Ordinary People series, I Am Rosa Parks is the first book we begrudgingly use to kick off these discussions. It’s funny, engaging, and goes into deeper detail on how mindful Parks was in her resistance – but it’s also factually inaccurate and implies that ‘racism is over.‘ We use it as a critical read to unpack the whitewashing of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Since the mainstream media and public curriculum saturates kids with a two-dimensional, pedestal-ed martyr of Parks, we then turn our attention to Claudette Colvin (all the books on her are are even more whitewashed, or terribly bland) and Georgia Gilmore in Pies from Nowhere.
In Pies from Nowhere, kids see how movements are not created or maintained by whim or luck. Nor are they achieved through the actions of just with one person.
Baking is not the first talent we think of when we imagine heroes and change-makers. This story opens up the lens on what it means to work in collective resistance down at the grassroots level, and how everybody can (must) play a part in revolution.
And then we bring it into the modern day Black Lives Matter movement and Black Futures stories – because anti-Black racism did not end with Rosa Parks.
- The hidden Life of Rosa Parks
- Claudette Colvin Refuses to Give Up Her Seat (ages 8+, content includes substance use and lots of irreverent cussing.
- Claudette Colvin tells her own story
- Bree Newsome Takes Down the Confederate Flag
Tying Parks’ resistance to modern times within the Earthquakes’ lifetime – we’re also learning about Bree Newsome’s take-down of the confederate flag and that impact on state flags in 2020. (There are no children’s books on Newsome yet, so we watch this video).
Afterward, we talk about what has changed, and what has stayed the same since Parks’ refusal.
With the stories and videos above, we unpack the way Gilmore and Parks contributed to a wider movement. The way Newsome trained for her ascent, and how her accomplice, Jason Tyson, used his whiteness to hug the flag pole to prevent cops from electrocuting her with tasers.
More Resources to dig deeper
- Children’s Books on Civil Disobedience & Disrupting Injustice
- Stories of Nonviolent Resistance For Kids
- Stories about Segregation & Desegregation
- Learning About Cultural Erasure with Milo’s Museum
- No White Saviors: Kids Books About Black Women in US History
- Children’s Books By Brilliant Black Women: #OwnVoices Authors & Illustrators