rosaparkskohl - The Politics of Children's Literature...

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The Politics of Children’s Literature—Zinn Education Project 1 I SSUES OF RACISM and direct confrontation between African American and European Ameri- can people in the United States are usually considered too sensitive to be dealt with directly in the elementary school classroom. When Afri- can Americans and European Americans are involved in confrontation in children’s texts, the situation is routinely described as a problem between individuals that can be worked out on a personal basis. In the few cases where racism is addressed as a social problem, there has to be a happy ending. This is most readily apparent in the bio- graphical treatment of Rosa Parks, one of the two names that most children associate with the Civil Rights Movement, the other being Martin Luther King Jr. The image of “Rosa Parks the Tired” exists on the level of a national cultural icon. Dozens of children’s books and textbooks present the same version of what might be called “Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.” This version can be synthesized as follows: Rosa Parks was a poor seamstress. She lived in Montgomery, Ala., during the 1950s. In those days there was still segregation in parts of the United States. That meant that The Politics of Children’s Literature What’s Wrong with the Rosa Parks Myth B Y H ERBERT K OHL Associated Press African Americans walk to work during the first days of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott.
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The Politics of Children’s Literature—Zinn Education Project 2 African Americans and European Ameri- cans were not allowed to use the same public facilities such as restaurants or swimming pools. It also meant that whenever the city buses were crowded, African Americans had to give up seats in front to European Ameri- cans and move to the back of the bus. One day on her way home from work Rosa was tired and sat down in the front of the bus. As the bus got crowded she was asked to give up her seat to a European American man, and she refused. The bus driver told her she had to go to the back of the bus, and she still refused to move. It was a hot day, she was tired and angry, and she became very stubborn. The driver called a policeman, who arrested Rosa. When other African Americans in Montgomery heard this, they became angry too, so they decided to refuse to ride the buses until everyone was allowed to ride together. They boycotted the buses. The boycott, which was led by Martin Luther King Jr., succeeded. Now African Americans and European Americans can ride the buses together in Montgomery. Rosa Parks was a very brave person. This story seems innocent enough. Rosa Parks is treated with respect, and the African American community is given credit for run- ning the boycott and winning the struggle. On closer examination, however, this version
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2012 for the course ENGL 846 taught by Professor Kohl during the Fall '11 term at Canada College.

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rosaparkskohl - The Politics of Children's Literature...

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