With 180 ratings
By: Danielle L. McGuire, Robin Miles, et al.
Purchased At: $16.95
Rosa Parks was often described as a sweet and reticent elderly woman whose tired feet caused her to defy segregation on Montgomery’s city buses, and whose supposedly solitary, spontaneous act sparked the 1955 bus boycott that gave birth to the civil rights movement.
The truth of who Rosa Parks was and what really lay beneath the 1955 boycott is far different from anything previously written.
In this groundbreaking and important book, Danielle McGuire writes about the rape in 1944 of a 24-year-old mother and sharecropper, Recy Taylor, who strolled toward home after an evening of singing and praying at the Rock Hill Holiness Church in Abbeville, Alabama. Seven white men, armed with knives and shotguns, ordered the young woman into their green Chevrolet, raped her, and left her for dead. The president of the local NAACP branch office sent his best investigator and organizer to Abbeville. Her name was Rosa Parks. In taking on this case, Parks launched a movement that ultimately changed the world.
The author gives us the never-before-told history of how the civil rights movement began; how it was in part started in protest against the ritualistic rape of black women by white men who used economic intimidation, sexual violence, and terror to derail the freedom movement; and how those forces persisted unpunished throughout the Jim Crow era when white men assaulted black women to enforce rules of racial and economic hierarchy. Black women’s protests against sexual assault and interracial rape fueled civil rights campaigns throughout the South that began during World War II and went through to the Black Power movement. The Montgomery bus boycott was the baptism, not the birth, of that struggle.
At the Dark End of the Street describes the decades of degradation black women on the Montgomery city buses endured on their way to cook and clean for their white bosses. It reveals how Rosa Parks, by 1955 one of the most radical activists in Alabama, had had enough. “There had to be a stopping place”, she said, “and this seemed to be the place for me to stop being pushed around.” Parks refused to move from her seat on the bus, was arrested, and, with fierce activist Jo Ann Robinson, organized a one-day bus boycott.
The protest, intended to last 24 hours, became a yearlong struggle for dignity and justice. It broke the back of the Montgomery city bus lines and bankrupted the company.
We see how and why Rosa Parks, instead of becoming a leader of the movement she helped to start, was turned into a symbol of virtuous black womanhood, sainted and celebrated for her quiet dignity, prim demeanor, and middle-class propriety - her radicalism all but erased. And we see as well how thousands of black women whose courage and fortitude helped to transform America were reduced to the footnotes of history.
A controversial, moving, and courageous book; narrative history at its best.
At the Dark End of the Street is a hard read. Inside we learn about what happened to Recy Taylor in detail. About all of the work Rosa Parks was doing years before she refused to get up from that bus seat. About the countless cases of brutality and rape of black women by white men. Of the countless cases where white women called rape on innocent black men. Be prepared to be sickened by the institutionalized suffering, and also by the fact that your fellow humans doled this violence out on a daily basis, and still do.
A detailed and acute research on the involvement and importance of women in the civil rights movement, this book is also a deep insight into the horrific and widespread use of sexual violence by white men to keep black women silent and to exert dominance. Sexual violence is often used as a weapon in war, we have seen many examples of this in the past and in the present, but the extent of its use in the US, and how it was constantly disregarded by the authorities, or even used against victims, is abhorrent. But these stories must be told because they should never be erased and forgotten.
In addition to being a huge minefield of information, events, and facts that are not taught in history books, this book is an important reminder of how black women’s voices have been consistently erased through time. Their overwhelming role in the Montgomery bus boycott reduced to a mere footnote, the tireless activism years and years before the civil rights movement took off stuffed away in the vaults of an archive, and the work that they continue to do on a daily basis forgotten. There is so much important information in this book, sometimes it actually feels overwhelming and frustrating at the same time because it really should be common knowledge.
I initially got this one from the library, but I bought a copy for myself as I feel like I only scratched the surface by reading it once and need to be able to refer back to it again and again. Can we add this book to the curriculum please? My kids will be asked to read it as soon as they are old enough to.
- that Rosa Parks was raised a Garveyite, and had been an activist and NAACP leader for more than 20 years when she famously refused to move from her seat,
- that this very seat was located on a bus whose driver had (less famously) harassed Ms. Parks 10 years before, and that she also knew E.D. Nixon was searching for a victim of racial violence who was "beyond reproach" to gain national media attention,
and SO much more!
I should add that I usually find history books a little boring, but this was very readable...