Summary: Very brief thoughts by Rosa Parks about her life.
I noticed this book was on sale for Black History month and realized that I had never read the copy that I purchased last year when it was on sale. Reflections by Rosa Parks is a book you want to buy when it is on sale. It is not that it is a bad book, but it is a very short book. The physical book is the 6 by 7 gift-book size. The audiobook is 80 minutes long.
Despite its short length, it is worth reading. Rosa Parks was in her 80s when she wrote Reflections. It feels like she dictated the book because its prose sounds spoken. There are 12 short chapters. The first several are about her early life and the bus boycott. From the sixth chapter on, the chapters are either about the people in her life or her thoughts on life. Her faith exudes in the pages. She has no interest in being a prominent focus, and humbly shifts the focus to the people around her or her faith.
It is precisely that humility that I think makes this book work. It is not a masterwork. It is a simple story and thoughts of an important, but a mostly unknown woman. She talks about the fact that her refusal to get up has been construed as her being tired after work. She says she did not get up because she was physically tired, but because she was tired of racism.
What I had not realized was how quickly she moved to Detroit. She was fired from her job as a seamstress at a department store weeks after the boycott started. And while it doesn’t say this, it seems likely that her husband probably was threatened as well. They moved to Detroit in 1957. Despite living in Detroit, she participates in the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Mongomery march and other Civil Rights work.
In 1963 she starts to work for Congressman John Conyers in Detroit and works for him for the next 24 years before retiring and starting a youth program in 1987. Her husband had passed away ten years earlier. In 1994, not long before writing this book, her home was broken into and she was badly beaten and robbed of a small amount of money. In the epilogue, Gregory Reed suggests that it was the publicity of that incident and her response to it that lead to the book contract.
About 20 percent of the book is a brief introduction to her life or epilogue by the co-author (and her lawyer) Gregory Reed. He represented her and was able to bring more attention to her life, including being responsible for several of the awards (Presidental Medal of Freedom, the apple commercial, a musical tribute album, the Congressional Gold Medal, etc.) Her suing over the use of her name in a song by OutKast went to the Supreme Court. The case dragged out for years, and by the time it was settled, she had dementia. Mrs. Parks passed away soon after the settlement.
This era of Civil Rights leaders have mostly passed away. They need to be accurately remembered for more than just single events. This book does not mention any of the work she did with the NAACP before the bus boycott or her years of quiet work after the boycott other than the fact that she started the youth program after she retired. The Civil Rights movement was not just Martin Luther King Jr. It was not four days (Brown, Rosa Parks refusing to get up, the March on Washington and King’s assassination). It was decades of work by mostly now unknown people.
Somewhat like Hariett Tubman, there are far more children’s books about Rosa Parks than serious biographies. There are several adult biographies like this one (probably better) and this one, but I think those are the only two that are serious biographies. It is not that children’s books are bad, but I do believe that people that have more children’s biographies than adult biographies are likely being remembered simply and not accurately.