Thursday, January 7, 2016

Judge Rosenbaum on Rosa Parks -- Thank You.

It's important to remember not just the history, but the context -- the haters, the murderers, the intellectual defenders, the preservers of the status quo, those who took no interest and therefore no action -- this stuff does not happen overnight as our President just said, or in a vacuum:
It was December 1, 1955. Although more than a year had passed since the Supreme Court issued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686 (1954), invalidating Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537, 16 S. Ct. 1138 (1896), and its separate-but-equal doctrine, change was slow to arrive in Alabama.

Rosa Parks had had enough. After a long day of work, she boarded the bus in downtown Montgomery and took a seat.1 Once the bus filled up, some white men boarded and could find no seats. Id. at 83. So the bus driver demanded that Parks and some other African-Americans give their seats to the white men. Id.

Though the other passengers yielded, Parks refused. Id. In later years, she explained, “[W]hen that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination to cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.” Donnie Williams & Wayne Greenhaw, THE THUNDER OF ANGELS: THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT AND THE PEOPLE WHO BROKE THE BACK OF JIM CROW 48 (Chicago Rev. Press 2005). Upon seeing Parks continuing to sit, the bus driver persisted, asking Parks if she was going to stand. Juan Williams, EYES ON THE PRIZE: AMERICA’S CIVIL RIGHTS YEARS, 1954-1965 66 (Penguin Books 1987).
Parks said, “No, I’m not.” Id. And when the bus driver threatened to call the police, Parks calmly answered, “You may do that.” Id. The police arrived and arrested Parks for refusing to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger in accordance with Montgomery city law. Id. at 87.

Parks’s courageous act inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott and served as the impetus for the modern Civil Rights Movement, transforming the nation.2 Id. In response to Parks’s arrest, for 381 days, 42,000 African-Americans boycotted Montgomery buses, until the United States Supreme Court held the Montgomery segregation law unconstitutional and ordered desegregation of the buses. Act of May 4, 1999, Pub. L. No. 106-26, § 1 (4), (5), 113 Stat. 50, 50 (awarding Parks the Congressional gold medal).
Parks’s refusal to cede ground in the face of continued injustice has made her among the most revered heroines of our national story; her role in American history cannot be over-emphasized. Indeed, the United States Congress has recognized Parks as the “first lady of civil rights” and the “mother of the freedom movement,” and it has credited Parks with “ignit[ing] the most significant social movement in the history of the United States.” Id. at § 1(2).
But then Target wanted to sell some Rosa Parks swag, and this lawsuit ensued (I'm paraphrasing).