Book Review: Rosa Parks-A Life by Douglas Brinkley

Rosa ParksOn December 1st, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama a black seamstress named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in to a white patron and was arrested. What seemed like a small act by a quiet, unassuming woman who just wanted to sit down and relax after a long day of work, inspired a year-long boycott of Montgomery’s bus system. The boycott lead to the rise of the civil rights movement, many changes to laws and the Jim Crow-era of the South and the activism of various civil rights icons like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And it was all due to an unassuming little seamstress.

Sure, Rosa Parks was unassuming and she did work as a seamstress. But she was so much more, which historian and author Douglas Brinkley writes about in his biography of Mrs. Parks called Rosa Parks: A Life.

Rosa McCauley was born on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her mother, Leona, was a school teacher, and her father, James, was a carpenter. They separated when Rosa was a toddler. A smart, studious and quiet girl, Rosa excelled in school and studied at Alabama State College for Negroes for a while. But do to family issues, she had to drop out. She soon met and married Raymond Parks, who worked as a barber.

To those who didn’t fully know Ms. Parks, it would seem she would be the type to live a low-key life. She was not to make a fuss, and December 1st, 1955 was just anomaly for this shy woman.

But we would be wrong. Ms. Parks spent a majority of her adulthood involved in civil rights and other social causes. She fought for her right to register to vote, finally succeeding in 1943. She worked as a secretary for the NAACP. After facing death threats in Alabama, she and her husband moved north to Detroit where she continued her involvement in the civil rights movement. She networked with other notable figures in the movement including Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Congressman John Conyers, working as Representative Congressman’s Detroit office. Her comrades were involved in all races, creeds, genders and included people of all ages. Brinkley’s books exhaustively researches all the notable hard work and achievements Ms. Parks did on behalf of the civil rights movement, and I found myself in more in awe of this amazing woman.

Mrs. Parks later wrote her autobiography and a book inspirational ideas and essays called Quiet Strength. She also got involved in women’s causes and acted as a mentor to young people, many of them finding her a truly inspirational force for them to also make positive changes in their lives and the lives around them.

A life-long devoted Christian, Mrs. Parks was also interested in Buddhism and meditation.

Mrs. Parks also chronicled her life and activism in her autobiography and wrote a book of inspirational ideas and essays called Quiet Strength. And throughout her life she received countless awards for her tireless work on behalf of the civil rights movement and other accomplishments.

Rosa Parks: A Life was published before she died in 2005. But it truly conveys how courageous, hard-working and generous she was in a very turbulent time. I’ve long admired Mrs. Parks and Mr. Brinkley’s slim, yet incredibly thorough and illuminating biography is one very enlightening read that should be a must-read for everyone committed to justice for all.