Rosa Parks and me

This week I am fortunate to be heading to Napier for the MA14 conference: the business of culture. Last week I talked about how good it is to be connected to other museum professionals through the internet etc, but it’s even better to get some face to face time. Conference is a time of having your ideas challenged and learning new skills, but it is also a time for renewing old connections and making new ones. Time spent chatting with colleagues can be as valuable as the time spent listening to amazing keynote speakers.

I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert so for me going to conference is exciting and a huge privilege but also personally challenging and really tiring. By the end of a day with lots of other people I am exhausted and long for time on my own to recharge my batteries. Last night I started reading ‘Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’. To my surprise the book starts with a couple of pages on the Rosa Parkes story – I’ve read her biography a couple of time so was delighted.

Why is Rosa Parkes featured? Because Rosa was a quiet, unassuming African-American woman – in short, an introvert – who changed the course of American history. (More on Rosa at the end of this blog post for those who are interested) Author Susan Cain makes the point that, in a world where extroversion is valued, introverts can find it hard to fit in. As I head to conference tomorrow I know that I’m going to learn a lot and be challenged to think differently – how cool is that?


Rosa Parkes. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old African American woman who worked as a seamstress, boarded a Montgomery City bus to go home from work. She sat near the middle of the bus, just behind the 10 seats reserved for whites. Soon all of the seats in the bus were filled. When a white man entered the bus, the driver insisted all four blacks sitting just behind the white section give up their seats so the man could sit there. Mrs Parks quietly refused to give up her seat.

She was arrested and convicted of violating the laws of segregation, known as “Jim Crow laws.” Mrs Parks appealed her conviction and thus formally challenged the legality of segregation. Local civil rights activists initiated a boycott of the Montgomery bus system. In cities across the South, segregated bus companies were daily reminders of the inequities of American society. Since African Americans made up about 75 percent of the riders in Montgomery, the boycott posed a serious economic threat to the company and a social threat to white rule in the city.

A group named the Montgomery Improvement Association, composed of local activists and ministers, organized the boycott. As their leader, they chose a young Baptist minister who was new to Montgomery: Martin Luther King, Jr. Sparked by Mrs. Parks’ action, the boycott lasted 381 days, into December 1956 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation law was unconstitutional and the Montgomery buses were integrated. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was the beginning of a revolutionary era of non-violent mass protests in support of civil rights in the United States.

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