MTSD Equity Practices: Getting Black History Right

  • Rosa Parks
  • In his TEDtalk, The Real Story of Rosa Parks, Vanderbilt Professor David Ikard tells the story of the day that his 9-year old son came home from school to share the story of Rosa Parks that he had heard in school that day.  The lesson, as reported by the son, was about an elderly woman, with “tired feet” who passively refused to give up her seat and accidentally becoming an activist.

    The true story is that of a 42-year old seamstress who was already an active member of the NAACP and a leader in her community against racial oppression and violence.  In her own retelling of the story, her refusal to give up her seat was fueled by the death of Emmett Till a few months earlier.  

    Often the story of Rosa Parks ends with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the eventual court ruling against segregation - a happy ending.  The lessons often stop short of sharing that for years after the famous events of December 1955, Rosa and her husband received death threats and became unemployable, causing them to have to relocate to Detroit.  The purposeful choice of standing up for racial justice came at a great personal cost.  

    As a district, teachers have challenged themselves to broaden the voices used in the classroom lesson and to authentically celebrate BIPOC who made a difference in the past and those who work to make the world better today.

    You can read an abridged account of the Rosa Parks story from her niece in this blog post, or read her own words in her autobiography Rosa Parks: My Story.