happy birthday, Rosa Parks

this post is part of the Poetry Friday collection*

Dr. Carla D. Hayden photograph by JG Annino at FAMU, Tallahassee

introducing a new book, ROSA PARKS, In Her Own Words

I salute the Library of Congress staff and its director Dr. Carla D. Hayden, for unending reasons, including our national library’s collection of historical civil rights materials. This Bookseedstudio focus is on Rosa Parks, whose Feb. 4, 1913 birthday, as the Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement is remembered publicly in many areas, from the nation’s Capitol  south to Alabama and westward to California.

It’s also marked at home with awe by those of us who curl up with a riveting new read, generously leavened with photos I recognize immediately, from this exemplar’s historic timeline. Rosa on the bus. Rosa with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And, Rosa on Dec. 1, 1955.

That day she paid her public bus fare, but wasn’t allowed to sit in an empty bus seat of her choosing, in Alabama. She was judged guilty, fined $10 and given 14 days hard city labor.

Source: aclualabama.org

 

Guilty, of being black where blacks, by local law, were denied access to tax-supported facilities.

A Landmark New Book

Because the Library of Congress received, archived and has made available, a massive collection of this incredible history-maker’s notes, kept by hand on single sheets and notebooks, and also her letters, essays, arrest details, bus boycott assignments, and other documents, a valuable, new Rosa Parks exhibit and book, beckons. It is Rosa Parks, In Her Own Words.

As noted by the book’s author Susan Reyburn, Rosa’s flowing cursive, which sprang from her expressive mind, bears witness in pencil and pen, across the backs of envelopes, paper pharmacy bags, small pocket calendars, assorted stationary, lined notebooks and other papers.

This pathfinder recorded events going back to age six, when she milked cows and picked cotton, created her first quilt, and stayed up all night fully clothed, ready to escape if needed, as white men, who often worked as law officers during the day, felt free to ravage black neighborhoods, burning buildings and flogging or killing black people found outside at night.

“Grandfather stayed up to wait for them to come to our house… 

We could not undress or go to bed at night. 

The doors and windows were boarded and nailed tight from inside.”

                                                                           Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

I trace my fingers over her handwriting and marvel at how fortunate this nation is to be the beneficiary of her bravery, her ideas and her positive civil disobedience actions. Can we have her calm proud gaze on one of our currencies?

Reading along in her moment-by-moment notes, I shout obscenities at her near-rapist, the night when teenage Rosa Louise McCauley babysits for a white couple.  A six-foot, 200-pound white bully, known to the white family, uses a con to get onto the back porch. He threatens Rosa for hours, as he guzzles liquor he has brought inside the house. He suggests sex for money. Read the heart-wrenching seesaw of keep away around a large upholstered chair. She won’t attempt escape, because of her duty to the white child asleep upstairs. The return of the couple ends the attack.

“I was not for sale. The U.S. Mint wouldn’t buy me, if he could offer it.”

             Rosa Louise McCauley Parks

 

From physically dangerous moments, to everyday insults, the story in Rosa Parks, In Her Own Words,  is as inspiring as any world civil rights leader’s memoir. Reading this led me to a poem:

Check Out The Book 
JG Annino
Oh, sure, gal. 
We got that book you want.
Yeah, I say for sure, right here.
Right here.
WHAT?
No. Now you know you can’t check it out, Rosa!
This is THE downtown li’bary.
You know your kind gotta check out over at your kind’s branch.
You don’t ever, why you can’t never, ever, all your life,
check out books here.
Next?
I say, STAND ASIDE, girl!
Why dear Miss Katrina, so good to see you.
And just how may it be my pleasure, to help?
c. 2020 JG Annino

 

Beyond Checking-out Books

Unarmed, without a bodyguard, Rosa Parks slipped into rural backwater communities of her state, as the top sexual assault investigator for the NAACP. She also collected other eye-witness experiences, such as of the school superintendent who refused to allow black children on a public schoolbus. And consider that all this is before she tests the limits of segregation of the tax-supported bus system.

On Dec. 14, 2019 in Tallahassee, I was fortunate to have placed in my hands by The Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the freshly released book, ROSA PARKS, In Her Own Words. 

Dr. Hayden delivered powerful words at the Florida A & M University commencement. And I also am grateful to my longtime friend and mentor, Librarian-educator Lenita Joe, retired, who was a kind bridge to my attendance at a post-graduation, local friends’ conversation with Dr. Hayden, who was born in Our Town. I expect to report on that in a later post.

Some 90 years after young Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was denied a book at her main library branch, her hand-written words, notes, documents, photographs, detailing little-known aspects of her personal civil rights history, dwell in the new nonfiction book ROSA PARKS, In Her Own Words, a book on paper, on-line and in glorious exhibit, showcased in an exhibit created by this nation’s most important public library open to all – THE. LIBRARY. OF. CONGRESS.

C. The Library of Congress

Find the book in many locations, including here.

Several pages of the Library of Congress exhibit are designed for families and schools.

If you write or podcast about this book or visit the exhibit in person or online, leave a link. I expect to further share the book and my poem at Tallahassee’s My Favorite Books’ open mic. night.
Jan Godown Annino/ February 2020
AND some past related articles

Bookseedstudio has several times visited the Library of Congress with joy, including here and here.

And again, happy happy birthday, dear Rosa Louise McCauley Parks! We love you. We thank you.

C. all rights reserved, The Library of Congress

  • here is more detail on the Poetry Friday collection that occurs in Kidlitosphere – you may want to join in.

an author to meet in alabama

JO. S. KITTINGER

http://www.jokittinger.com/
is an author to meet in Alabama.

(My apologies – I had my typical link issues tonight so you may need to type in Jo’s name into your search engine.)

I met the always bizee Jo S. Kittinger,  through the second home that is teacher/friend/cheerleader

to writers & illustrators working on stories for the kiddos,  the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

http://www.scbwi.org/

Jo is a regional advisor in this group for the Southern Breeze (GA, MS & AL & for Florida, a bit of the roof of the state.)

She is a much-published non-fiction & fiction picture book writer.

She is also an expert photographer. This fall, something new pictures her world.

She presents her debut literary picture book. It’s  about an event in modern U.S. history close to many hearts.

These questions today  are about, ROSA’S BUS, for the Calkins Creek imprint of Boyds Mills Press.

It is  illustrated by Steven Walker  in an arresting style that

makes me think of the grand Works Progress Administration post office &

government building murals.

Q

What do you want readers to feel about the bus that Rosa Parks rode?

JO KITTINGER

When Americans gaze at the Liberty Bell, I imagine they are filled
with a sense of patriotic pride in the freedoms we all enjoy. I would
love for readers to feel the same way about Rosa’s Bus.

Q

Did you always know that the bus, #2857, still existed? Would you
share the story of how you found this historic Civil Rights era icon in Michigan?

JO KITTINGER

No, I was not aware of the existence of the actual bus, #2857, until a
few years ago. I was contacted by Donnie Williams, the Georgia man who
owned the bus before it was sold to the Henry Ford Museum.
Williams had written an adult book about the bus and the Civil Rights
movement, THE THUNDER OF ANGELS, and his editor was interested in a
children’s book about the bus. Donnie acknowledged that he was not a
children’s author, so he contacted me. I was able to interview
Williams and was intrigued. Unfortunately, the project did not work
out with his editor and then Donnie passed away. I decided the subject
was worth pursuing and continued work on the story.

Q

What is your connection with civil rights? And that era the bus represents?

JO KITTINGER

I feel a deep connection with the history of the Civil Rights movement, having grown up during those
tense years in the south. Visiting our Birmingham Civil Rights
Institute is always a moving experience. They have a similar bus from
that era on exhibit, in conjunction with the Freedom Riders.

Q

What do you want young readers to understand, more than anything else,
about the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott?

JO KITTINGER

Freedom is not free. The bus boycott was a difficult year for all
those who participated. But black people were determined to go the
distance, to stick with the boycott until the changes were achieved. I
think it is also very important to realize that non-violent means CAN
be an effective avenue to change.

Q

What is it about writing for young readers on historical topics that
especially speaks to you?

JO KITTINGER

When I was a child, history seemed dry, uninteresting and unimportant.
I hope that by presenting history in an interesting way I can help
children realize that there is much to be learned from what has
already happened in our world. We can avoid repeating mistakes if we
are willing to learn from history.
Q

Can you please share a little bit about artist Steven Walker and his
evocative picture book illustrations for your story?

JO KITTINGER

I wish I’d had the privilege of meeting Walker and discussing his
work, but editors like to keep authors and illustrators separate for
the most part. But I was very pleased that Walker was chosen for this
project. He is primarily a fine artist, rather than an illustrator, so
I was very curious about what approach he might take with my story.
You can see more of his work at http://www.stevenwalkerstudios.com. I
must admit that I was taken aback for just a second by the stoic
nature of his work. But after reflection, I realized that he’d
perfectly captured a mood that I’m sure was accurate for the
situation. As an African American, he added a perspective that I’d
only been able to imagine. I’m very grateful for his contribution to

this book.

Many thanks,  Jo.

I’m sure readers will be at their libraries & bookstores,  asking  for

ROSA’s BUS.