SAN DIEGO: As American’s begin the month of March, which is designated as Women’s History Month, and as the remembrance of Black History Month just ended, there is a unique opportunity to reflect upon Rosa Parks (b. February 4, 1913, Tuskegee, AL – d. October 24, 2005, Detroit, MI), and the time in which she lived.
Rosa Parks became an international icon of the Civil Rights movement.
But, as this transition from one month to the next in light of America’s past unfolds, it is a good time to reflect on why Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement are so important in American history. They provide lessons in how “democracy” goes bad.
Many Americans hold the image of Rosa Parks as the diminutive “Negro” lady, who through a bold act of defiance, launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott, becoming a symbol of the civil rights struggle. Yet, there is much more to this history than Rosa Parks’ single act of defiance against a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama.
Rosa Parks is among the many who protested against the Jim Crow segregation, including the practice of “Negros to the back” of public buses. During this time, several efforts were made to challenge such Jim Crow discrimination in various southern states.
Most southern states (those of the Democrat-controlled former Confederacy) allowed the bus companies to permit their bus drivers police-like authority on their buses. The individual bus companies followed their own Jim Crow practices of segregation, and they left it to the individual bus drivers to enforce restrictions.
One early serious legal challenge in Virginia involved a woman named Irene Morgan.
Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946) was argued by William H. Hastie an American, lawyer, judge, public official, educator, and civil rights advocate. The Morgan action resulted in a landmark ruling that Virginia’s state law enforcing segregation on interstate buses was illegal.
At the time, Morgan said:
“If something happens to you which is wrong, the best thing to do is have it corrected in the best way you can… The best thing for me to do was to go to the Supreme Court.”
Even though this case was historic and overturned state segregation laws, such laws did not apply to travel on buses within state boundaries, but it did lead to the U.S. Supreme Court setting the precedent that interstate commerce came under the Commerce Clause, and segregation on buses traveling from state to state was unconstitutional.
Another case that did not make it to the “big league,” or the Supreme Court involved a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army by the name of Jackie Robinson.
In 1944, young Robinson refused to move to the back of a local bus and ended up in a confrontation with an Army officer in Fort Hood, Texas. This future major league ballplayer (yes, that Jackie Robinson) was brought up on serious charges and ultimately faced a military court-martial. Jackie Robinson was eventually acquitted.
After World War II, the NAACP began to actively investigate and litigate such cases.
In the larger scheme of history, one of the reasons that the NAACP began to more actively delve into these issues is due to an even deeper horror of what was going on after World War II.
One of the more infamous incidents happened on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1946. An evil incident occurred that involved another young black Army veteran. Isaac Woodard Jr., a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, was traveling to his home in the South after his service in the Pacific Theater. (ISAAC WOODARD (1919-1992)
He had been honorably discharged after returning to the states.
Sergeant Woodard was simply returning to his family, but en route, he was forcibly removed from a Greyhound bus by police in South Carolina. According to the court testimony of Woodard, he had been punched in the face and repeatedly beaten with nightsticks. He stated that he was repeatedly jabbed in his eyes with a billy club. He had been beaten so badly in the head that the following day he awoke blind, and had temporarily lost his memory.
After this incident Sergeant Woodard was never the same. He was beaten so badly that he lost his vision for the rest of his life.
This grisly tale touched off a great deal of indignation throughout the country not long after the war. Fortunately, despite media suppression in the South, similar stories of beatings of returning black veterans with tragic outcomes trickled out during this time.
The Isaac Woodard tragedy was recounted again and again in the media in northern cities, and in particular, it caught the attention of the President of the United States, Harry Truman who was appalled by the vicious racist atrocities.
President Harry Truman – Early Civil Rights advocate
Some historians have revealed that when an old friend wrote to Harry Truman at the time, appealing to him as a fellow Southerner, to go “easy” on civil rights, Truman’s return comments included:
“When a mayor and a City Marshall can take a Negro Sergeant off a bus in South Carolina, beat him up and put out one of his eyes, and nothing is done about it by the State Authorities, something is really radically wrong with the system…”
On December 5, 1946, Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9808. This executive action established the President’s Committee on Civil Rights (PCCR). This Committee was an effort aimed at proactively addressing the exploding problems of violent racism in post-war America.
By October 1947, the Committee published “To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights.”
The report proposed, among a number of remedies, the establishment of a permanent Civil Rights Commission, a Joint Congressional Committee on Civil Rights, a Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and an effort to develop federal protection from lynching, as well as the abolition of poll taxes.
The underlying problem was the institutionalization of racism via the governments of the Democrat-controlled South.
Truman had an uphill battle against his own political party just to do the right thing. But, the action of pushing blacks to the back of buses was a “mild” form of the racism that had been sewn into the very culture of the old white supremacist Confederacy that had existed for decades.
What Rosa Parks did was truly brave, and should be remembered as a significant part of American history, but there is so much more to the history that deserves to be understood. For instance, the real suppression was the suppression of the black vote throughout the Democrat-controlled southern governments.
What President Truman did took courage as well
It was tantamount to political suicide. Americans do not realize that those pioneering efforts with the Committee on Civil Rights, which was a Division of the U.S. Justice Department, needed to be done because the regional governments in the south were
reinforcing and protecting one another. The federal intervention was the beginning of the efforts to provide federal protection from lynching blacks, and a start to allow the blacks the unrestricted right to vote — without intimidation, without poll taxes.
The underlying problem was the institutionalization of racism via the networks of state and local OneParty-controlled governments. This was the fruition of democracy in the South. This is exactly why the Founding Fathers rejected democracy s a form of U.S. government and created a Constitutional Republic.
Today, the contemporary Left and the “Progressives,” otherwise known as Democrats constantly talk about “democracy” and how they will help everyone under the sun. Yet, if one looks around to take a good look, the states that have one party-controlled government, like California, Colorado, Washington, and recently Virginia, seek to create a dominion that resembles an “Old Dominion” of the Old South, but in new packaging. This may explain why Socialism is so appealing to the “Democratic” Party.
It is hard to remove endemic racism from their political DNA.
Visit The Henry Ford’s Curator of Public Life for there excellent videos on the life and protest of Rosa Parks. This is just one of the many videos worth watching:
Mrs. Rosa Parks altered the negro progress in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955, by the bus boycott she began. National Archives record ID: 306-PSD-65-1882 (Box 93). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rosaparks.jpg