I admit, the timing of this article is odd. There’s no reason to talk about Rosa Parks at this moment, and yet, something reminded me of an interesting story I have heard about the Montgomery bus boycotts. Why not mention it now?
I have to also admit that my purpose for writing this is none other than to get it down into the record. The “wayback”, for posterity I suppose. I’m only a messenger. I don’t want to detract from the symbol of Rosa Parks, for those who believe in her. However, there are other people whose story deserves to be told.
In 2011, when I had just graduated from Air Force OTS at Maxwell AFB, Alabama (in Montgomery), my family came down to visit me. My mother’s sister famously (to our family) was an enthusiastic participant in whichever summer had the Southern “sit-ins”. A white anglo liberal from California, attending Cambridge’s Radcliffe woman’s college, this aunt bused down to go eat at segregated cafes with black people. Something like that. It’s a famous family story, and I suppose something most high school kids read about in their history books. Civil rights is the big self-congratulatory success of the baby boomer generation. I can’t lie, good for them. During Japan’s conquest of Asia, America sat on its bloody Philippine colony. During Germany’s Nuremburg Laws, which provoked America’s Jews to “declare war on the Nazis”, the South (and North in other ways) had de jure “Jim Crow” laws (reminder that Harper Lee is now considered evil). Good for the 60s kids to kick that BS in its nuts.
Even so, in Montgomery, in 2011, my family and I visited the Rosa Parks/Montgomery Bus boycotts museum.
Before you enter the museum, there’s a movie. The museum employs students from the adjacent Troy University to say a few words prior to the movie. What one beautiful, highly articulate black woman (calling Joe Biden) said to me – and my family – shocked us.
Her introduction to the movie, the museum was something like this:
“The Rosa Parks story was a lie. My grandmother, and three other women were the real Rosa Parks. They really were tired one day, after a godawful amount of work, and just couldn’t get up to move to stand in the back of the bus. They were all prosecuted for defying the rule, and they filed a lawsuit about it. This lawsuit, in spite of the boycott, is why the ‘back of the bus’ rule was overturned. Rosa Parks was a fraud. She sat in the wrong seats for months waiting for an incident to happen. When it did, a bunch of white communists came on board to make a big deal about it. But my grandmother was the real hero, a real woman, not some communist tool. And in the 70s when the Rosa Parks legend was becoming popular, she spoke out about it. And they poisoned her, and she died.”
Well, I can’t confirm that this woman was poisoned by the Rosa Parks people. I forget which woman she was talking about. However, the rest of her story totally checked out.
The lawsuit in question was Browder v. Gayle. It was the actual cause of the “back of the bus” policy ending. The four defendents were: Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, Mary Louise Smith, and Jeanetta Reese. These women deserve credit. They really were the “real” Rosa Parks. To be fair, respect to this granddaughter earning her tuition money at the museum, these women should be celebrated because they were real people. Rosa Parks was an activist, and she had an agenda.
I think, in the spirit of Murray Rothbard, libertarians need to be more mindful of real folks. Working people, and business people. The people who get things done, without pretense. The people history forgets, because they aren’t part of the agenda which is constantly seeking to control narratives (the non-politicals), and shape history.
The college student/museum host mentioned a “highlander institute” and said that Rosa Parks and MLK Jr. both were nothing but communist agents. The museum itself prominently discusses the role of the “highlander institute”. You can read its history here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlander_Research_and_Education_Center
So here’s the thing: no red-baiting on LI.org. I think the traditional Marxist arguments are mostly BS. However, during the 1950s, in the South, Marxism was basically true. Historic racial relationships descended from literal economic exploitation based on race. The South was rural, and not highly industrialized. Segregation was legally enforced. Urban areas were full of blacks. Hello??!! It was legally institutionalized economic exploitation of a racial minority – to sew and operate telephones and run machines and so forth.
So the communists, in this case, were right. My grandmother – the mom of the sit-in participant – was the daughter of a Scotch prairie preacher, a socialist of FDR loving variety. I can envision just exactly the same type inviting concerned black activists to a mountain retreat to discuss “real shit”.
I don’t see a Soviet conspiracy to destabilize America. Unless the Soviet plan was to stop America from acting as an effective exploitative imperial power. Heaven forbid.
Even so, the Highlander Folk School was activist. It concerned itself with economic issues, and organized people and trained them along basic revolutionary lines. As a libertarian who’s read Gabriel Kolko, who knows American capitalism is a big fat scam – even if socialism is garbage and free free markets are the best – I can’t really take much issue with these guys.
Thaddeus Russell – of a “Renegade History of the United States” – doesn’t like MLK Jr. for being too morally conservative. I sort of see his point and agree, but I also have been thinking that Thad Russell is too out-of-bounds (but I don’t want him to change). I think MLK Jr.’s message isn’t so bad.
His peace message is forgotten, but it’s the best part of his message. The idea of MLK Jr. offering a “threat” that if his movement isn’t accepted by white America, a more violent one will emerge – a perfectly fine point. Because, in the end, MLK was advocating peace. The economic parts of MLK’s message are completely socialist. I disagree, but he had a right to complain I think.
Altogether, so what if Rosa Parks and the civil rights core are just communist tools? They served a purpose, and it wasn’t even a cynical one. They called out shit that wasn’t right.
So, sure, Rosa Parks is part of a fake communist narrative. But, well, it’s not the fact, but it’s the truth – ain’t it?
One of their granddaughters took the time to remind me about them. So I’m reminding you again.
And if the “civil rights” communists poisoned one of them for calling out Rosa Parks? Well, that’s why communists suck. But the white imperialists suck too.
That’s the beauty of being libertarian. You can say stuff like that.