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Rosa Parks Image Work


Focus Questions

  • What are the multiple ways to interpret a historic moment? 
  • How can image work help us to connect with other perspectives? 



We’ll start our work today with a quote:

“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.”

Let’s look at some of the key vocabulary in this statement.

  • What is this person concerned about? (underline key vocabulary: freedom, equality, justice, prosperity)
  • What do some of these words mean? (help group define any words that feel confusing...)
  • Who might have said a phrase like this? (take suggestions) (they may or may not say R. Parks.)

Today we’re going to be talking about Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement. What do we know about Rosa Parks? (scribe key words on board). Does anyone remember what action she participated in? Great, about when did this happen? What movement was this part of? Did everyone agree with Rosa’s decision to stay seated where she was? Why not?

Read the Image:

Observe a picture of Rosa Parks on the bus

D: What do you see in this picture?

A: What is this person doing? Why might this be important?

R: Let’s relate this image to the quote from Rosa Parks that we started with today, what do you see in this picture which connects with our quote? Why?

Transition: There was no one there that day to take a picture of the actual event. Here’s a description of exactly what happened that day from Rosa’s autobiography. Let’s listen to see if this picture is an accurate representation based on her account.

“The final straw came December 1st, 1955 as I rode the bus home from my job at the Montgomery Fair Department Store. I boarded the bus, paid my fare, and sat down in the first row behind the seats reserved for the whites. This was in the eleventh row and almost in the middle of the bus. The bus made its way along its route and the seats reserved for whites only began to fill up. When all of the seats were full, and there were still three whites standing the bus driver moved toward the back of the bus and demanded that four black people relinquish their seats to the white people. I just wanted to protect myself and my rights. The three black men near me moved, but I just scooted over towards the window seat. The bus driver then asked me why I did not get up and move and I told him that I did not feel that I should have to. 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. I knew someone had to take the first step and I made up my mind not to move. Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it.”

Transition: Reflection on the photo. How is this description different than what we see in the photo? Let’s image that someone was there taking the picture. We’re going to re-create this image for ourselves keeping in mind what actually happened that day?


Create image through embodiment:

“Create our own version of this photo. Create what really happened that day on the bus. Build one character at a time. Rosa, Bus Driver, people on the bus. Enourage folks to stage the most dynamic moment, when the driver is asking Rosa to move. As each character adds, define the character’s point of view. Look for multiple perspectives and where people’s perspectives might come from. 





Reflecting on the Image

  • Describe: What do you see? 
  • Analyze: What’s happening, what emotions etc are you seeing? What about their body, face, posture, is telling you that? Focusing on an image: “Let’s pretend this person has a thought bubble over their head, what might this person be thinking in this moment? Why?” 
  • Relate: How do these characters represent some of the views that shaped the Civil Right’s movement?
Extensions/Applications : 

Journal Writing
Let’s imagine, now, that each of the characters in our picture went home that night and wrote in the diary about what happened that day. Think about the image we created. Choose one person from our list of characters and write a diary entry from that person’s point of view, as if you are that person, describing what happened that day. Be sure to include specific detail, and YOUR character’s point of view about the events.