Students Revisit Rosa Parks' Life; Many Struggle to Grasp Context of Civil Rights Era

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 26, 2005 | Go to article overview

Students Revisit Rosa Parks' Life; Many Struggle to Grasp Context of Civil Rights Era


Byline: Keyonna Summersand Tarron Lively, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Area schools broke from their classroom routines yesterday to talk about Rosa Lee Parks, the "mother of the civil rights movement" who died Monday.

"As an African-American student, I feel like I have to carry on her spiritual message," said Aleta Dunn, a student at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney.

Aleta, 13, said she heard the news Monday night on the radio and ran to the living room to tell her parents.

"When you grow up hearing about somebody, then they're gone, you cannot believe it," she said.

Mrs. Parks' refusal in 1955 to give up her bus seat to a white man prompted a 380-day boycott in Montgomery, Ala., that was led by Martin Luther King, then a little-known Baptist minister.

Some students yesterday simply pondered the civil rights movement of the era and its long-term results.

"It's kind of ironic that [Mrs. Parks] fought so black people could sit at the front of the bus, but today we rush to sit in the back," said Franklin Owens, a 17-year-old sophomore at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Southeast. "Technically, she sat down for our rights. I'm glad she did that, though, because now we have the option to sit in the front or the back of the bus."

Teachers at the academy tried to give students historical perspective by including lessons on how Irene Morgan and Claudette Colvin also refused to give up their seats to whites, 11 years and nine months, respectively, before Mrs. Parks.

Students also learned that Thurgood Marshall argued the first bus-segregation case before the Supreme Court."There were a lot of misconceptions," said history teacher Akil Kennedy. "Students didn't know how things were back then."

Some students said they would have sought revenge had they, like some black passengers, been left behind at bus stops after paying their fares.

"Some said they would egg the bus or punch the driver," Mr. Kennedy said. "But if you put it in context of the times, they wouldn't be doing that."

The Hope Community Public Charter in Northwest connected Mrs.

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