A new multimedia website to chronicle the life of Rosa Parks, rosaparksbiography.org, has been created by members of the Narrating Change, Changing Narratives working group, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research.
Rosa Parks was an important figure in the civil rights movement, but the teaching of her contribution has largely been limited to elementary school curriculum and reduced to a single act of civil disobedience on a Montgomery bus. Her full biography tells a different story; one of lifelong activism for social and criminal justice, which began decades before her bus stand and continued for decades after she moved to Detroit eight months after the boycott’s successful end. This rich history is the focus of the award-winning book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Distinguished Professor of Political Science Jeanne Theoharis (Brooklyn College).
This summer, she and Professor Say Burgin (University of Leeds) embarked on a project to create a website to teach Rosa Parks through the frame of criminal justice. With the creative and technical assistance of Jessica Murray, a Digital Fellow at the Center for Humanities, the website went live on February 4, 2016, what would have been Mrs. Parks' 103rd birthday. Using the University of Southern California’s Scalar platform, a content management tool intended for long-form, media-rich online publications, the three were able to collaborate and showcase highlights of six decades of Parks’ activism. This incredible history is enhanced with audio and visual materials--from Scottsboro, to her NAACP work in the 1940s-1950s challenging rape and legal lynching, to her role in the organization of the Montgomery bus boycott and Highlander Folk School, to her decades of work in Detroit on prisoner defense, opposing police brutality, and the criminalization of young people.
The site is meant to be a free teaching and learning resource for students, educators, and people dedicated to learning the history of Black freedom struggle who have only scratched the surface of Mrs. Parks’ lifetime of activism.
-by Jessica Murray