Until Douglas Brinkley's biography, most biographical treatments of the woman who became a symbol of civil disobedience and courage have been intended for children. Brinkley succeeds in giving a competent chronological treatment of Parks' history, and in making appropriate arguments for Parks as an activist before and beyond December 1, 1955. However, Brinkley hurries through Parks' childhood and later life with a few chapters and anecdotes. He often undermines his own efforts by placing heavy written emphasis on the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Civil Rights Movement and on Martin Luther King, Jr.
Still, Brinkley's work should not go underappreciated, as it is clear that he has done a great deal of research. Brinkley wants readers to understand Parks as the committed, radical activist she is by sharing salient points about her history. He chronicles important points in her career such as her work in the 1930s as the head of the Alabama Legal Defense Fund that helped defend the Scottsboro Boys. Readers also learn that Parks had previously clashed with the racist bus driver who had her arrested.
Regrettably, Brinkley often raises more questions than he answers by failing to adequately elaborate even on his own questions. Readers may still wonder if Parks refused to stand for overtly political reasons (an all white jury had just acquitted two of the suspected murderers of Emmett Till) or simply because she was physically tired that December day?
Since Brinkley has chosen to tie much of Parks' life back to December 1955, this book does not satisfactorily stretch the legacy of Parks beyond what many readers already know. Consequently, readers are left to wonder about other controversies, joys and challenges in her long, important life. While historically sound, on a personal level this biography, unlike the woman, often disappoints.
Dr. Hodari is the editor of the forthcoming anthology of prison writings entitled Convictions (www.askhari.com).
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|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2001|
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