Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Thank you Miss Rosa, you are the spark,
You started our freedom movement
Thank you Sister Rosa Parks.

The Neville Brothers
No doubt that the late Rosa Parks was a heroine. Last night on CNN when Aaron Brown referred to her as the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia went a step further called her one of the mothers of Modern America.

But when considering heroes, I like to consider villains too.

I'm not talking about the obvious villains of the Civil Rights era -- Wallace, Maddox, Bull Connor, the Ku Klux Kretins who committed bombings and lynchings and midnight terrorism.

I'm talking about someone who has fallen through the cracks of history: The white man on that bus in Montgomery in 1955 who wanted Rosa Parks' seat.

By all the accounts I've read, it was the bus driver, not this anonymous white passenger who caused the uproar -- ordering Parks to stand up or be arrested, then actually calling the police.

But I want to know how that white passenger felt that day.

Was he just another Alabama bigot, angry at the uppity nigger who was sitting in the seat that rightfully belonged to him?

Was he less than a hater, just a passive participant in the Jim Crow laws, quietly accepting segregation as the natural order of things? Did Parks' refusal confuse him? Did he really care about getting a seat all that much? Was he embarassed when the bus driver made a scene? Or was it he who reported Parks to the driver?

Did this guy's views of Civil Rights change through the years? Did he curse the sit-ins and freedom marches? Did he vote for George Wallace? Was he one of those who drove Parks and her husband out of Montgomery by making threatening phone calls?

Did he ever come to feel shame about that day on the bus? Did he ever feel less than manly about trying to oust a middle-aged woman from a seat on a bus?

Did he ever get to know Rosa Parks? Did he ever apologize? Did he ever realize that her act that day actually made him more free?

Is he dead or alive? Who is this guy? I believe the story of Rosa Parks is incomplete until we know.


  1. Anonymous6:17 PM

    Now I am wondering too..

    The most thought provoking article I have read on Rosa Parks. Bravo.

  2. Anonymous7:48 PM

    I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and live in New York City. I'm back home visiting the "magic city," one of the many civic booster names given to this most turbulent town in the "heart of dixie." You might have heard it called "Bombingham."

    I shared the Rosa Parks article with several friends and I got this reply which sheds further light on some of the questions posed in the article.

    I realize that actual answers are somewhat beside the point since the questions seem designed to provoke thought rather than flush out mundane facts.

    Be that as it may, here are some
    "facts" offered as food for further thought.....

    "Somewhere recently I came across an article on the other people in this thing. The bus driver had been on the job a very short time and had had a previous argument with Rosa. He says he was just doing his job. There was no one white man; rather, they had pulled up to a bus stop and there were a number of white men waiting to get on the bus, so the driver told her to move back before he opened the doors. So it was just a gaggle of guys with no one having to take responsibility -- which makes its own statement.
    And then there was this comedian on Comedy Central who said, 'This is the most amazing unbelievable story, the story of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat for a white person and starting, with that act, the Civil Rights Movement. Absolutely unbelievable. Can you believe that in so short a time, as recently as fifty years ago, that white people rode the bus?'"


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