Rosa Parks by Douglas Brinkley is a compelling autobiography that portrays the life of Rosa Parks from her early childhood to the start of the civil rights movement. Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee Alabama, and lived in Montgomery most of her life after her parents separated. Growing up in Montgomery was hard for African Americans like Rosa. Her childhood taught her racial discrimination at an early age as she was constantly exposed to racial inequality. Throughout the book, Rosa despised the segregation laws known as Jim Crow which separate the colored people from the white people. Rosa’s act of defiance for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger, and being arrested for it spawned the Montgomery bus boycott. This led to the largest civil rights movement in the United States in 1955. Rosa’s courage is widely recognized and known as “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement”. I have previously heard about the struggles that Rosa Parks and other African Americans endured to achieve equality and end racial segregation. I wanted to gain an understanding of why Rosa Parks stands out as an important historical figure and a role model to everyone around the world. Rosa’s dedication to eliminating segregation in the South proved to be a powerful impact on the civil rights movement.
The author, Douglas Brinkly uses third-person omniscient as the narrative voice to inform the reader of the events of the story. You can hear the thoughts of multiple characters that Rosa encounters in this biography. This is evident when Rosa refuses to relinquish her seat to a white passenger when asked by the local Montgomery bus driver, Blake. The situation put Blake in a blind. This woman would, of course, have to be evicted from his bus. But should he do it himself, or should he call the police? Would it be better just to take her name and address and report her to the authorities later? Uncertain of what to do, he radioed his supervisor (Brinkley 107).
The author also uses flashbacks to highlight the main events of Rosa’s life. Whenever Rosa experiences something crucial in her life, Brinkley flashes back to provide some background information and reveal some important truth about Rosa’s past. An example is when Rosa recalls her grandfather’s teachings as a young girl. The author shows the reader that Rosa’s grandfather was a truthful, dedicated man who was proud of his black heritage and openly defiant against the Jim Crow Laws. Rosa was very much influenced by his defiance which molded her into the person she has become.
The social issues that are dealt with throughout the book include discrimination, racism, and segregation. At the time, Southern United States strictly followed the “Jim Crow Laws”. These segregation laws were set in place in the late 1800s which declared to give African Americans and Whites “separate but equal” treatment and social status. But in reality, blacks were considered inferior and second-class citizens to white people; there was no equality whatsoever. The laws were created by white people who believed that black lives didn’t matter as much as white lives. These laws resulted in racial segregation and allowed discrimination against African Americans known as “colored people” at the time. The Jim Crow laws varied across different states but all shared the same goal, to ensure whites held a higher status over blacks. Rosa, furious with the laws states, ‘“[t]he entire democratic process had been destroyed,’ Parks explained, to the point that ‘anyone black or white-it didn’t matter-who spoke out against segregation risked being killed”’ (Brinkley 46). The narrative voice chosen to tell the story has proved effective because as the reader, I am able to gain insight into the thoughts and feelings of Rosa Parks and other characters. Throughout this book, I feel empathy and remorse for Rosa and all the other blacks who suffered because of racial discrimination. It also left me with an overwhelming feeling of anger towards the state of Alabama.
Rosa Parks written by Douglas Brinkley is a biography revealing the life of African Americans like Rosa Parks in the United States of America during the time of segregation. The book written in third person narrative is easily understood by the reader who is able to connect with Park’s life and experiences. The attention to detail the author uses helps the reader envision the hardships of Rosa’s life. The social issues revealed in Rosa’s life were segregation, racism, and discrimination, towards blacks which lead to the civil rights movement in 1955. Most black Americans were faced with inequality, prejudice, and bias in their daily lives. Rosa’s story of perseverance, bravery, courage, and dedication has been acknowledged and admired throughout history. It is important to be thankful for those who fought for the freedom we take for granted. Thanks to people like Rosa Parks, we are able to enjoy the privilege of choice and openly express our diverse cultures, religions, and celebrations no matter our skin color, race, or ethnicity.