Monday, January 21, 2008

1950s Comic Tells Story of Martin Luther King Jr and the Montgomery Protest

Archivist Ethan Persoff has an impressive collection of old-timey education comic oddities, and between the double entendre-laden ads and government propaganda you'll find an awesome comic about Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott, published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation in the late 1950s. Remember when comics were edu-taining? I don't either. The MLK comic is simply and forcefully drawn in that wonderful Golden Age style, and the passages near the end detailing King's philosophy of nonviolent social change are quite moving.

It's worth noting, however, that the panels dealing with Rosa Park's famous refusal to give up her seat perpetuate a common misunderstanding of the incident...hit the jump for the panel, and what's wrong with it.

This panel tells the Rosa Parks story as most kids learn it; Parks was tired and simply chose not to give up her seat. It's understandable and identifiable, but we're encouraged to see Parks as an ordinary woman who for some intangible reason decided to do what no one else would.

But the truth is Rosa Parks did not fall into activism by chance; she had been an active figure in movements for social change for years before the incident in Montgomery. Parks had the following to say in her 1992 autobiography (as quoted on Parks' Wikipedia page):

"People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in."

There you have it. Question everything, go check out your local MLK parade, enjoy your day off.

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