Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Montgomery Bus Boycott

Part One: Rosa Parks; historical figure or a legend?


1. Opening Activity: Elicit students' prior knowledge by asking, what do you know about Rosa Parks? Have the class brainstorm as a whole on the board, but give them a two-minute time limit.

2. Classroom Activity: Using the Document Analysis Worksheet have students examine Jo Ann Robinson's letter to Mayor Gayle, Rosa Parks's arrest report, and the boycott handbill. Students can work individually or in small groups.

3. Discussion/Reflection Questions: What new information about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott did you gain from the documents? What was most interesting to you? What questions do you still have? How does the information in these documents differ from the generally accepted story of Rosa Parks? Is the public's understanding of Parks based more on legend or reality? Who or what contributes to the public's understanding of historical events and figures? What are the consequences of hero making in history? Support your answer with examples.



  Documents:     Resources:  
  Assignment Options:        
  • Ask students to read about Rosa Parks and Jo Ann Robinson from the online King Encyclopedia. Next, ask students to critique their textbook's description of Rosa Parks by comparing the information in the textbook to the documents and the King Encyclopedia entries. Ask students to make a list of the inaccuracies and omissions by their textbook.
  • Challenge students to interview teachers, parents, community members or other students about Rosa Parks. Ask them to report their findings to the class. Students may lead a follow-up discussion. What does the general public "know" about Rosa Parks? How and why does misinformation become generally accepted as fact?

How can everyday people organize to transform a community?

Does the general public regard Rosa Parks as a historical figure or more of a legend?

Who is Claudette Colvin and why is she left out of the mainstream historical narrative?

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