>> you're watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> and this weekend on booktv we bring you our coverage from the 2015 southern festival of books held every year in nashville. starting at noon you can watch authors' talks and panel discussions on the life of pat conroy. race in america. southern culture and more. also this weekend on "after words," sean naylor provides a history of the joint special operations command in conversation with washington post investigative reporter dana priest. republican presidential candidate and former neurosurgeon ben carson has a new book out, "a more perfect union." in it he weighs in on current social and political issues. and john carl and mary loomen suggest ways to reform america's prison system. also this weekend lillian
faderman, anne marie slaughter talks about her vision of male and female equality, and marian nestle reports on soda politics. for a complete schedule visit booktv.org. booktv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors. television for serious readers. >> host: we are joined now by gene theo harris who is the author of the rebellious life of rosa parks. prior to december 1, 1955, was rosa parks rebellious? >> guest: absolutely. and her rebellious spirit really starts as a young person, as a kid. for instance, she grows up in a home with her grandparents and her mother. her grandfather -- after world war ii there's this uptake of
klan violence in alabama. her grandfather will sit out at night with his shotgun, and a young 6-year-old rosa parks will sit with him. another time a white bully pushes her, and she pushes back, right? she believes she shouldn't have to be pushed. her political life starts when she meets who she describes the first real activist she ever met, and that's raymond parks. they will get married in 1932, and she will join him organizing around the scottsboro case. so that's 1932, and for the next 20 years she will be active. she'll join the naacp in 1943, for the next ten years will help to heed the montgomery naacp to becoming a more activist chapter, doing voter registration, working on legal cases, also trying to get justice for black women who have been victims of sexual violation. so by -- violence. so by december 1, 1955, rosa parks is a seasoned rebel, if you will.
>> host: was december 1, 1955, the bus sit-down, was that planned? >> guest: no. it was not planned. but it is a process both in terms of her life, a kind of culmination of, again, many acts of rebellion. certainly, montgomery's black community is thinking about filing a suit. this is a year after brown v. board of education, so we're in a different legal climate. they've been talking about the need to challenge bus segregation. this is also not the first act -- she's not the first person arrested on the bus. in the decade after world war ii, you see a kind of trickle of people refusing to give up their seats, getting arrested. in 1944 a woman by the name of viola white is arrested, refuses to give up her case, police rape her daughter. there's a series of cases. again, 1954 with brown offers a new opportunity.
and as you may know, in march of 1955 a 15-year-old by the name of claudette colvin refuses to give up her seat on the bus. maybe this will be the case, the community begins to galvanize. the judge throws out the segregation charge in claudette colvin's case, and second, the community doesn't fully stand behind colvin. they see her as two too young, too feisty. so when i say it's not planned, rosa parks is not a freedom rider, she doesn't get on the bus to make a stand, but it also is not spontaneous, it doesn't come out of nowhere. rosa parentings had made -- parks had made stands on the bus before december 1, 1955. one of the things that galled her was many bus drivers would make black people pay in the front and get off the bus and reboard in the back. she refused to do that. and she'd been thrown off the bus by both this bus driver, cho will have her arrested, and other bus drivers who considered
her uppity for not being willing to do that. so this is not her first act of bus -- [inaudible] but on december 1, 1955, she's coming home from work about 6:00 at night. she actually let the bus pass by because it's too crowded, goes to the drugstore, buys a few things, boards the bus, sits in the middle section. the middle section is a bit of a no man's land in that black people -- this is not the white section. and over and over she makes clear she's not sitting in the white section. there are a lot of hillary clintons that she sits in -- hillary clintons that she sits in the -- myths that she sits in the white section. that's not true. the middle section, black people could sit there but on the whim of the driver could be asked to give up their seat. now, the third stop after she gets on the bus fills up, and one white man is left standing. and the bus driver notices this, the bus driver's name is james blake, and he tells the people in rosa parks' row because for
this one white man to sit down, all four people in this row-to get up. and he asks them to get up. no one moves. he asks again more forcefully, you all better make it light on yourselves, and the other three people reluctantly, according to rosa parks, get up, and she -- as she puts it -- pushed as far as she could be pushed that if she got up, she would be concepting to this -- consenting to this treatment, she said, and she did not consent. she thinks about emmitt till in this moment, the young 14-year-old who had been lynched in mississippi. she thinks about her grandfather, and she refuses. so she actually slides -- she let's the man sitting next to her get by, she slides over to the window and refuses. the bus driver says, well, i'm going to have you arrested, and she says, well, you may do that. so the bus driver gets off to call the police. he doesn't have a cell phone. and i think we could think about what's happening in that moment,
right? because she's sitting there, i think those of us who have been on the bus when somebody makes a scene know what people do, people are grumbling, people are getting off the bus. the police officers get on the bus, and i think many of us think about rosa parks being quiet, right? and rosa parks is certainly a shy, reserved person. but rosa parks is not quiet in key moments. and when the police officers get on the bus and they ask her why she didn't move, she says back why do you push us around? so i do think rosa parks in many moments challenges both in her body but also with her voice the kind of system of inequality in this country. and then she is arrested. >> host: well, i want to go to the teaching of history, because as children we all learn that rosa parks sat on the bus in the white section -- >> guest: right. >> host: -- quiet. this is what you write in your book, "the rebellious life of mrs. rosa parks." just as turn of the century
reconstruction history held up good black people as happy, so too, so does the incessant celebration of parks as quiet and not angry. >> guest: right. i mean, i think we learn about her, she has a kind of, on the one hand, right, she's incredibly celebrated and honored. on the other hand, we hear about one day when rosa parks had a lifetime of activism in montgomery, but the parks will have to leave montgomery in 1957, and she will spend the second half of her life as an activist in detroit fighting the racism of the jim crow north. and she will continue to do that. rosa parks will call malcolm x her personal hero, she will be active against the war in vietnam, she will be active against south african apartheid. you are showing a picture, one of my favorites in the books, of an older roast a parks protesting outside the south african embassy. she will continue to the end of her life saying the struggle for
racism is over. and she will kind of be kind of resolved to keep fighting. and yet i think the way rosa parks is taught is it's taught as a problem we solved in the past when the actual rosa parks said there's much more work to be done. >> host: how did you do your research on this book? where were the papers? >> guest: i had to do a lot of digging. i did, i went to all sorts of around kentuckys, i did all -- archives, i did all sorts of oral history interviews. part of her pape beers were held up -- papers were held up in a dispute over her estate. they languished in new york for about a decade until this summer howard buffett made an incredible donation, bought them and recently gave them to the library of congress. and in february they opened it. so they are remarkable. the library of congress is open to anyone who wants to visit. people should go see