The Myths Surrounding Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Recently during Black History Month in February, C-Span 3’s American History TV aired a history lecture from Wellesley College Professor Brenna Greer. Professor Greer, an African American woman, aimed to deconstruct the myths surrounding Rosa Parks as just a Black woman who had had enough when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1,1955, and that the Montgomery Bus Boycott was short and successfully ended segregated busing.

There are a few major points in her argument regarding Rosa Parks. One, that Rosa’s actions were not done on a whim; that they were deliberate, planned and coordinated. This was also the case of Homer Plessy on a train car in Louisiana in 1892.

Two, that Rosa was not “the first” Black woman to take such an action. In fact, Ida B. Wells, a Black female journalist who publicized lynchings of Black Americans in the late 19th century, had also challenged racial segregation in the 1880s when she refused to move from her seat on a train on May 4, 1884.

Flowing along the myths is the question of why. Why was it necessary to create such myths about a woman and an action of civil disobedience that led to a historic transformation in America’s story?

At one point, Professor Greer asks students to raise their hands if they first learned about Rosa Parks when in elementary school. Most hands went up. But when asked if they learned anything about her in high school, it was a very different story as just two or three hands were shown. Greer attributes much of this to the false notion that children need very simple characters, when in reality, in Greer’s view, children, whose minds are “very flexible,” could certainly understand a more complex character, like the real Rosa Parks.

As for adults in the 1950s, if one pictures Rosa like the sweet, “middle class” and light-skinned Black woman as she can be perceived by the picture below, she is easier for the public to swallow.

File:Rosaparks 4-5 (cropped).jpg
Rosa Parks, 1955

According to Greer, she was typically described as an “elderly seamstress with tired feet” and “many news accounts didn’t even give her name.” Rosa was 42 when she made history. Contrast that with Ida B. Wells, who appears strong and hardened by her experiences in the Jim Crow South. Wells’ own printing outfit was burned down by a white mob.

File:Face detail, from- Ida B. Wells circa 1895 by Cihak and Zima (cropped).jpg
Ida B. Wells, 1895

Additional challenges to segregated transportation from Black Americans in the same year that Rosa made history are also highlighted, including those of Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder and Mary Louise Smith. As Professor Greer put it, “We need to scratch off that Rosa Parks was ‘the first.'”

Professor Greer seems to argue that the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s had smartened up to the fact that the press would not show as much attention, and the public would not show as much sympathy, to a Black woman who looked like Claudette Colvin or the other women, who the public would perceive, through media accounts, as “too dark” and “too poor.”

To clear up the myth from the “fairy tale” that the Montgomery Bus Boycott was short, Ms. Greer points out that the it lasted 381 days. She poses the question “How long do you think most people, if not yourself, thought the boycott was?” Answers appeared to range from a few weeks to a couple months. The extensive length of time, over a year, is evidence of just how ingrained segregation was in the South. It took Browder v. Gayle (yes, that’s Aurelia Browder), a lower court case that challenged Montgomery’s racial segregation on public buses, which eventually reached the Supreme Court, to finally see an order for integrated buses in Montgomery. A few days later, on December 21st, the leaders of the movement decided to set foot on Montgomery buses once more.

Watch the lecture here.

This article originally appeared on the blog Right Guy, Wrong Town.

A Strategy for Encouraging Children to Read Again…Youtube?

Growing up, especially in my elementary school years, I loved to read. I consumed a ton of Gary Paulsen and Roald Dahl books, which were practically in the curriculum in my school so I can at least say my school was successful in that area. But there came a time, early in my adolescence, where it seemed like I spent more time sitting on the couch and watching Talespin than I did reading classic books. One summer, I assume this was the result of him noticing, my father forced my sister and I to read an hour a day. I don’t even know if it worked. I seem to remember just staring at the page, waiting for the hour to end. My father worked only 10-12 minutes away from the house, and tended to come home every day for lunch. One beautiful day, my sister and I were swimming in our pool, enjoying our time away from school. When our father came home for lunch, he insisted we complete our reading hour, so we sat on the pool deck with books in front of our faces. When he left to return to work and began to drive up the hill on the road along our house, he slowed the van, stopped and presumably stared at his children for 20-30 seconds (he was far enough away that we couldn’t see his face), who were sitting quietly on the pool deck, doing as they were expected, or in my case, just staring at the words. I still wonder if he heard the splash from the pool when the van was clear up the road.

Mom and Dad Set the Tone

I never fell in love with the hour-long reading chore, for lack of a better word, because that’s what it felt like, a chore. I was being forced to read. However, I do credit my dad, and my mom, for my love for reading (Mom was the one who would read to me at bedtime when I was younger). He set an example. My dad is a voracious reader to this day, and now that he’s retired, he reads even more.

Not my old man, but you get the picture, literally.

A Discovery

Now that I’m a father, I’ve been trying to think of ways to get my daughter to engage with books more without forcing her all the time (sometimes I just have to as a parent). I don’t want her to resent reading, and I don’t want her to think we have to make a deal every time I expect her to read (“if I…will you play Roblox?”). My wife and I did read to her nightly up to the age of around 4. Being so young and innocent, she loved the time with Daddy or Mommy, listening to the words, examining the pictures, pointing at objects, being shocked or surprised by a ridiculous turn of events. Now, we still read, but it’s not a nightly affair, even though it should be. Because she reads for school, and last year read for personal pan pizzas earned through the Pizza Hut Bookit! program (she has 3-4 certificates that haven’t been redeemed since the start of the pandemic), reading for pleasure seems so foreign to her now. After thinking I should start a Youtube page that presents exciting and engaging summaries of children’s books and books for early readers, I crawled out from under my rock and discovered that there are a bunch of Youtube channels devoted to reading (though I still might move ahead with the Youtube page for young readers).

The Strategy: Subscribe to Channels About Books and Reading

I’m going to subscribe to a few of these Youtube channels through the profile that my wife and daughter share. The way I see it, an algorithm is manipulating my baby, so I’m going to manipulate the algorithm. In school, my daughter, who turned 7 in August, is just now beginning to learn about the main idea of a story and has to put it in writing, followed by supporting details. The next step, after introducing her to some of these Youtube reading channels, is to buy some of the books she comes across on the channel. From there, “What’s the main idea of the story?” might become a weekly writing assignment tied to the allowance she gets for doing dishes on Wednesdays. If that doesn’t work, I might ask her grandfather to force her to read for an hour every day next summer. Just kidding, maybe.

If you have any strategies to share that encourage children to read, please let us know in the comments.

Adding a Quiz in Moodle

The following is an excerpt from my new book Moodle in Minutes: A Practical Introduction for New Online Instructors. You can purchase it on Amazon here.

Adding a Quiz 

Quizzes are among the most important activities in Moodle and in an online course, period. Just like in a regular classroom, a quiz serves as an assessment for teachers to gauge how well their students are moving along in the learning process. I include a quiz with every week or topic.

To add a quiz, first click Add an activity or resource as you did for all previous activities. Scroll down until you find the Quiz option, select the circle to its left and finally click Add.

The “Editing Quiz” page will open, allowing you to first add a name. If you’d like, you can add a description to ease some of the worries of anxious students, and select the box next to “Display description on course page,” but in my opinion, the course looks cleaner and trimmer without it. Alternatively, you could provide a description that simply shows up when the quiz is taken, and not click the “Display description” option.

Editing a Quiz

When you’ve selected the options you think are appropriate for your quiz, click Save and display to begin editing and adding questions. The page that loads will include a button to edit the quiz. Click it to begin.

The “Editing quiz” page will load, and if questions were added previously, you would see them listed. However, as this is our first quiz, you’ll need to click Add and then + a new question to create a quiz question.A window will open in the middle of the page, much like when you add an activity or resource. Called “Choose a question type to add,” this window lists all of the types of assessment items you have at your disposal. As you can see, some are geared toward math, while others are for any subject matter.

For practical purposes, we’ll go over three of the assessment items that I think are the most useful for most subjects: Multiple choice, Select missing words and True/False.

Multiple Choice

For all quiz items, you will see the category option, question name and question text (the rich text editor). “Category” allows you to file the question in either the quiz itself, another quiz or section, or in the course’s question bank in general. In this exercise, we’ll file our question in the quiz itself. I like to include a name like “Q1 [topic name]” to indicate that it’s the first question I created for the particular topic.

In the rich text editor, add your multiple choice question.  Below the editor is another text box (“General feedback”) for providing automatic feedback that the student will see once they complete the question. This is a great place to elaborate on the big idea related to the question and answer.

Below “General feedback” you can choose whether one answer or multiple answers are allowed in response to the question. If you choose to allow multiple answers, you will then need to adjust the percentages below the choices in the “Grade” section. For example, if two choices are correct, then set each correct choice to 50%. You should provide a negative percentage (e.g. -50%) to the incorrect choices to ensure that a student who simply ticks all the boxes does not receive 100% credit. On the other hand, if only one answer is correct, the “Grade” should be set to 100%, with all incorrect answers being left as the default “None”. Once you provide 4 choices and allocate a grade total of 100% to one choice or a combination of choices (in the case that multiple answers are allowed), click Save changes.You will then be returned to the “Editing quiz” page. Notice that our example question now appears.

There are even more assessment items and activities covered in my book Moodle in Minutes: A Practical Introduction for New Online Instructors.