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The Rosa Parks Story: The Making of a Civil Rights Icon

Delphine Letort
Black Camera
Vol. 3, No. 2 (Spring 2012), pp. 31-50
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/blackcamera.3.2.31
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/blackcamera.3.2.31
Page Count: 20
Subjects: Film Studies
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ARTICLES

Abstract

Abstract

The Rosa Parks Story (2002) belongs to the wave of civil rights films that emerged in the 1980s and was dedicated to recounting the fight for desegregation in the southern states. Rosa Parks quickly became an icon of collective resistance by famously refusing to forfeit her seat to a white passenger on board a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. In this made-for-television biopic, director Julie Dash strives to retrace Rosa Parks's personal and political journey to emancipation. This article considers the constraints the director had to negotiate while recounting the story of a national icon for television. Not only did the weight of legacy bear on the project, but so did the conventions of the biopic as a genre that stresses the personal rather than the political. The historical narrative of the civil rights movement is simplified into a story that reproduces stereotypes popularized by both race melodramas and mainstream media.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Owen J. Dwyer gives the example of Kelly Ingram Park, which was converted from a once-segregated park into a “Place of Revolution and Reconciliation” in 1992. Owen J. Dwyer, “Interpreting the Civil Rights Movement: Contradiction, Confirmation, and the Cultural Landscape,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2006), 7.
  2. 2.
    Leigh Raiford and Renee C. Romano contend that “in the past twenty years, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s has assumed a central place in American historical memory. Today memories of the movement are being created and maintained in a wide variety of sites, from memorials to art exhibits, advertisements, community celebrations, legislative battles, and even street names.” Leigh Raiford and Renee C. Romano, “Introduction,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Raiford and Romano, xii. Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman explain: “these museums are located primarily in the South. The most significant civil rights museums, in terms of their size and audience, are located in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis and are closely associated with the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman, Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory (Chicago: Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago), 57.
  3. 3.
    Clayborne Carson, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Charismatic Leadership in a Mass Struggle,” Journal of American History 74 (September 1987): 448–54.
  4. 4.
    Fred Powledge has noted: “In the minds of untold numbers of Americans, for example, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the civil rights movement. Thought it up, led it, produced its victories, became its sole martyr. Schoolchildren—including Black schoolchildren—are taught this.” Fred Powledge, Free at Last (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), xiv.
  5. 5.
    Sharon Monteith explains that: “It would be impossible to argue that something called ‘civil rights cinema’ existed before the end of the 1980s, by which time a provisional sub-genre of feature films had begun to develop around race and rights with reference out to the Movement.” Sharon Monteith, “The Movie-Made Movement: Civil Rites of Passage,” in Memory and Popular Film, ed. Paul Grainge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), 121.
  6. 6.
    Ibid.
  7. 7.
    “Civil Rights issues had been treated in the past but mostly from the white perspective or in a sort of idealized way from the black perspective that soft-sold the effects of discrimination. …Hollywood later wrote its own historical version of the civil rights movement in Mississippi Burning (1988), a film in which black and civil rights activists in general have remarkably little to do with the success of the civil rights movement.” Daniel Franklin, Politics and Film: The Political Culture of Film in the US (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 135.
  8. 8.
    Dennis Carlson, “Narrating the Mutlicultural Nation: Rosa Parks and the White Mythology of the Civil Rights Movement,” in Off White: Readings on Power, Privilege, and Resistance, ed. Michelle Fine (New York: Routledge, 2004), 307.
  9. 9.
    Anne Crémieux, Les Cinéastes noirs américains et le rêve hollywoodien (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2004), 33.
  10. 10.
    Julie Dash said: “The script I was handed was more about Raymond Parks and his point of view than Rosa Parks. It was not about her. And I think that's why Angela [Bassett] wanted me to massage the script by Paris Qualles—the writer of record. Together, we made the appropriate changes.” Michael T. Martin, “‘I Do Exist’: From ‘Black Insurgent’ to Negotiating the Hollywood Divide—A Conversation with Julie Dash,” Cinema Journal 49, no. 2 (2010): 12, doi: 10.1353/cj.0.0186, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/cinema_journal/v049/49.2.martin.html.
  11. 11.
    The film is a biopic: “The biopic narrates, exhibits, and celebrates the life of a subject in order to demonstrate, investigate, or question his or her importance in the world; to illuminate the fine points of her personality; and for both artist and spectator to discover what it would be like to be this person, or to be a certain type of person, or, as with Andy Kaufman, to be that person's audience. The appeal of the biopic lies in seeing an actual person who did something interesting in life, known mostly in public, transformed into a character.” Dennis Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 10.
  12. 12.
    Linda Williams, Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 44. “If emotional and moral registers are sounded, if a work invites us to feel sympathy for the virtues of beset victims, if the narrative trajectory is ultimately concerned with a retrieval and staging of virtue through adversity and suffering, then the operative mode is melodrama” (15).
  13. 13.
    Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway?, 213.
  14. 14.
    Martin A. Berger, Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
  15. 15.
    Anna Everett lists all the controversies around the film in Anna Everett, “Spike, Don't Mess Malcolm Up,” in The Spike Lee Reader, ed. Paula J. Massoud (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008), 91–114. Mike Reynolds studies the film as a conventional biopic in Mike Reynolds, How to Analyze the Films of Spike Lee (Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing Company, 2008), 70.
  16. 16.
    Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway?, 176.
  17. 17.
    Berger, Seeing through Race, ix.
  18. 18.
    Ibid., 27.
  19. 19.
    Ibid., 20.
  20. 20.
    Dennis Carlson, “Remembering Rosa: Rosa Parks, Multicultural Education, and Dominant Narratives of the Civil Rights Movement in America,” in Grappling with Diversity: Readings on Civil Rights Pedagogy and Critical Multiculturalism, ed. Susan Schramm-Pate and Rhonda Baynes Jeffries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), 21.
  21. 21.
    Williams, Playing the Race Card, 298.
  22. 22.
    Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2003), 81.
  23. 23.
    Dennis Carlson, “Troubling Heroes: Of Rosa Parks, Multicultural Education, and Critical Pedagogy,” in Promises to Keep: Cultural Studies, Democratic Education, and Public Life, ed. Greg Dimitriadis and Dennis Carlson (New York: Routledge, 2003), 197.
  24. 24.
    Berger, Seeing through Race, 35. Andrew Hacker explains that King's mythification is linked to his nonviolent, integrationist stance, which made him an acceptable black figure in mainstream society: “Of course, King was a genuine leader with an unequalled following. Still, his adoption by whites gave him an ambiguous status— one reason why many white Americans wanted to have his birthday made a holiday was to ensure that this honor would go to someone with whom they could feel comfortable. Blacks could not object, nor was that their wish. At the same time, they sensed that he was essentially a white choice.” Andrew Hacker, Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992), 63.
  25. 25.
    Williams, Playing the Race Card, 29.
  26. 26.
    “By adhering to many of the key markers of dominant American identity while challenging the racial hierarchy, protestors presented less of a threat to mainstream society.” Berger, Seeing through Race, 25.
  27. 27.
    Dennis Carlson, “Narrating the Multicultural Nation: Rosa Parks and the White Mythology of the Civil Rights Movement,” in Off White, ed. Fine, 304.
  28. 28.
    Christine Gledhill, “The Melodramatic Field: An Investigation,” in Home Is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman's Film, ed. Christine Gledhill (London: BFI, 1987), 30.
  29. 29.
    Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991).
  30. 30.
    Dennis Carlson, “Remembering Rosa,” 16.
  31. 31.
    Such works include: Peter J. Lingand Sharon Monteith, eds., Gender and the Civil Rights Movement (1999; New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004); and Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, eds., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941–1965 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
  32. 32.
    Sharon Monteith, “Revisiting the 1960s in Contemporary Fiction: ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’” in Gender and the Civil Rights Movement, ed. Ling and Monteith, 232.
  33. 33.
    Dwyer, “Interpreting the Civil Rights Movement,” 11.
  34. 34.
    Jack Rothman, Hollywood in Wide Angle: How Directors View Filmmaking (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004), 98. Although Julie Dash is not presented as the interviewee in this passage, she is mentioned as one of the filmmakers interviewed. Jack Rothman introduces the extract as the “outrageous experience of a director making a biographical film (for cable) about Rosa Parks” (98).
  35. 35.
    Joyce A. Hanson, Rosa Parks: A Biography (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Biographies, 2011), 72–73. “People learned community organizing skills in a movement dedicated to non-violent struggle even in the face of violent white resistance. During the sit-ins, the freedom rides, and the marches and demonstrations, black students and church members mingled with people from indigenous community organizations.” Gerald David Jaynes, A Common Destiny, Blacks and American Society (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1989), 163.
  36. 36.
    Carlson, “Remembering Rosa,” 19.
  37. 37.
    “Blacks hoped to insulate themselves from the very worst manifestations of racial oppression by showing fealty to mainstream, putatively white, ideals of respectable, civilized behaviour, even as they remained at all times acutely aware of their marginalized position outside the mainstream.” Marisa Chappel, Jenny Hutchinson, and Brian Ward, “‘Dress Modestly, Neatly…as If You Were Going to Church’: Respectability, Church, Class, and Gender in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Early Civil Rights Movement,” in Gender and the Civil Rights Movement, ed. Ling and Monteith, 70.
  38. 38.
    Carlson, “Remembering Rosa,” 19. Carlson also mentions the moment when Ed Nixon asks Clifford Durr to call the police and have Rosa released. The film thus reinforces the mythology of the “good white,” who gets involved in the civil rights movement to rescue black victims. “Remembering Rosa,” 19–23.
  39. 39.
    Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway?, 215.
  40. 40.
    In 1956, “upon returning to Montgomery in late June, Parks's heart sank when she saw how sick her mother was, how heavily her husband was drinking, and how many bills had been left unpaid.” Douglas Brinkley, Rosa Parks: A Life (New York: Penguin, 2000), 165.
  41. 41.
    Ibid., 175.
  42. 42.
    “Cultural studies is polarized between theories that see peoples' cultural practices as empowering for the resistant and creative meanings they produce and the more traditional Marxian interpretations that see all cultural practices as limited if not manipulated by the structures of capitalist social formations and the commodity form.” Susan Willis, “Memory and Mass Culture,” in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Geneviéve Fabre and Robert O' Meally (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 186.
  43. 43.
    Edward P. Morgan, “The Good, the Bad, and the Forgotten,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Romano and Leigh, 138. Morgan further observes: “Mass media's construction of the past is governed first and foremost by the imperative of maximizing audiences of readers. Their selective memory, then, invariably reflects fundamental economic, organization, and ideological forces at work within a capitalist economy. As such, the mass media plays a crucial role in creating the foundations of common, or near universal, public discourse and public memory within a culture” (139).
  44. 44.
    Linda Williams explains that two works have forged black stereotypes: “Uncle Tom's Cabin had deployed melos, pathos, and action to draw northerners who had previously been uninvolved in the debate over slavery into its orbit, making the ‘good nigger’ into a familiar and friendly icon, for whom whites had sympathy. Now, sixty years later, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War, The Birth of a Nation solidified North and South into a new national feeling of racial antipathy, making the black man into an object of white fear and loathing.” Williams, Playing the Race Card, 99.
  45. 45.
    “One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro: two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge this double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older to be lost… He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American.” W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1904; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 8.
  46. 46.
    Christine Gledhill, Stardom: Industry of Desire (Oxon: Routledge, 1991), 209.
  47. 47.
    Linda Williams posits that home is the “space of innocence for its many virtuous victims. Black and white racial melodrama originates in the homey virtues of Uncle Tom's cabin, which render familiar the American ‘family values’ of the African slave.” Williams, Playing the Race Card, 284.
  48. 48.
    Ibid., 252.
  49. 49.
    Ibid.
  50. 50.
    The film therefore mixes fact and fiction in what could be termed a “dramadocumentary” according to the definition given by Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight. They contend that directors use this form to “construct a dramatised representation of the social historical world,” combining “factual assumptions (accuracy, objectivity)” with “some latitude for fictional representation.” Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight, Faking It: Mock Documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 54.
  51. 51.
    Pierre Nola, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Fabre and O'Meally, 284. The use of archive footage also fills a void according to Nola: “The less memory is experienced from the inside the more it exists through its exterior scaffolding and outward signs— hence the obsession with the archive that marks our age, attempting at once the complete conservation of the present as well as the total preservation of the past” (290).
  52. 52.
    Williams, Playing the Race Card, 16.
  53. 53.
    Jackie Byars, All That Hollywood Allows: Re-reading Gender in 1950s Melodrama (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 13.
  54. 54.
    Thomas Elsaesser underlines the political dimension of personal predicaments in melodrama. See Thomas Elsaesser, “Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family Melodrama,” Monogram, no. 4 (1972), repr. in Movies and Methods: An Anthology, ed. Bill Nichols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 165–189.
  55. 55.
    Steven Weisenberger, introduction to The Sins of the Father: A Romance of the South by Thomas Dixon (1912; Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), xiv. The race melodrama dates back to Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1952 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Susan Gillman argues that race melodrama plots revolve around “the revelation of secret identities, of hidden race mixtures,” revealing racial anxieties and ambivalences. See Susan Gillman, “The Mulatto, Tragic or Triumphant? The Nineteenth-Century American Race Melodrama,” in The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender and Sentimentality in Nineteenth-Century America, ed. Shirley Samuels (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 222.
  56. 56.
    Susan Kay Gillman studies race melodrama in literature and points to the role of women in the genre: “Not the quietist, bourgeois form that it has usually been assumed to be, melodrama in fact mediated social and political change through the interpersonal domain, of the body, this role becoming particularly apparent on the maternal melodramas and women's films produced by American filmmakers between the wars.” Susan Kay Gillman, Blood Talk: American Race Melodrama and the Culture of the Occult (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 14.
  57. 57.
    For Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks physically embodied the type of defendant the NAACP would put forth: “Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class,” says Colvin. “She fit that profile.” Claudette Colvin, “Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin,” interview by Margot Adler, NPR, March 15, 2009, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101719889. Angela Bassett's film career provides an interesting intertextual context to her interpretation of Rosa Parks: “She has consistently portrayed characters that are icons of strong black womanhood and has brought to life inspirational figures from African American history.” Karen Hollinger, The Actress: Hollywood Acting and the Female Star (London: Routledge, 2006), 188. Angela Bassett played the role of Malcolm X's wife in Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992).
  58. 58.
    Linda Williams posits that home is the “space of innocence for its many virtuous victims. Black and white racial melodrama originates in the homey virtues of Uncle Tom's cabin, which render familiar the American ‘family values’ of the African slave.” Williams, Playing the Race Card, 284.
  59. 59.
    Laura Mulvey, “Notes on Sirk and Melodrama,” in Home Is Where the Heart Is, ed. Gledhill, 75.
  60. 60.
    Carlson, “Narrating the Multicultural Nation,” 304.
  61. 61.
    Jennifer Fuller, “Debating the Present through the Past: Representations of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1990s,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Romano and Raiford, 187–88.
  62. 62.
    Pierre Nola, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Fabre and O'Meally, 285.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Owen J. Dwyer gives the example of Kelly Ingram Park, which was converted from a once-segregated park into a “Place of Revolution and Reconciliation” in 1992. Owen J. Dwyer, “Interpreting the Civil Rights Movement: Contradiction, Confirmation, and the Cultural Landscape,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Renee C. Romano and Leigh Raiford (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2006), 7.
  2. 2.
    Leigh Raiford and Renee C. Romano contend that “in the past twenty years, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s has assumed a central place in American historical memory. Today memories of the movement are being created and maintained in a wide variety of sites, from memorials to art exhibits, advertisements, community celebrations, legislative battles, and even street names.” Leigh Raiford and Renee C. Romano, “Introduction,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Raiford and Romano, xii. Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman explain: “these museums are located primarily in the South. The most significant civil rights museums, in terms of their size and audience, are located in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis and are closely associated with the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.” Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman, Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory (Chicago: Center for American Places at Columbia College Chicago), 57.
  3. 3.
    Clayborne Carson, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: Charismatic Leadership in a Mass Struggle,” Journal of American History 74 (September 1987): 448–54.
  4. 4.
    Fred Powledge has noted: “In the minds of untold numbers of Americans, for example, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the civil rights movement. Thought it up, led it, produced its victories, became its sole martyr. Schoolchildren—including Black schoolchildren—are taught this.” Fred Powledge, Free at Last (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), xiv.
  5. 5.
    Sharon Monteith explains that: “It would be impossible to argue that something called ‘civil rights cinema’ existed before the end of the 1980s, by which time a provisional sub-genre of feature films had begun to develop around race and rights with reference out to the Movement.” Sharon Monteith, “The Movie-Made Movement: Civil Rites of Passage,” in Memory and Popular Film, ed. Paul Grainge (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), 121.
  6. 6.
    Ibid.
  7. 7.
    “Civil Rights issues had been treated in the past but mostly from the white perspective or in a sort of idealized way from the black perspective that soft-sold the effects of discrimination. …Hollywood later wrote its own historical version of the civil rights movement in Mississippi Burning (1988), a film in which black and civil rights activists in general have remarkably little to do with the success of the civil rights movement.” Daniel Franklin, Politics and Film: The Political Culture of Film in the US (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006), 135.
  8. 8.
    Dennis Carlson, “Narrating the Mutlicultural Nation: Rosa Parks and the White Mythology of the Civil Rights Movement,” in Off White: Readings on Power, Privilege, and Resistance, ed. Michelle Fine (New York: Routledge, 2004), 307.
  9. 9.
    Anne Crémieux, Les Cinéastes noirs américains et le rêve hollywoodien (Paris: L'Harmattan, 2004), 33.
  10. 10.
    Julie Dash said: “The script I was handed was more about Raymond Parks and his point of view than Rosa Parks. It was not about her. And I think that's why Angela [Bassett] wanted me to massage the script by Paris Qualles—the writer of record. Together, we made the appropriate changes.” Michael T. Martin, “‘I Do Exist’: From ‘Black Insurgent’ to Negotiating the Hollywood Divide—A Conversation with Julie Dash,” Cinema Journal 49, no. 2 (2010): 12, doi: 10.1353/cj.0.0186, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/cinema_journal/v049/49.2.martin.html.
  11. 11.
    The film is a biopic: “The biopic narrates, exhibits, and celebrates the life of a subject in order to demonstrate, investigate, or question his or her importance in the world; to illuminate the fine points of her personality; and for both artist and spectator to discover what it would be like to be this person, or to be a certain type of person, or, as with Andy Kaufman, to be that person's audience. The appeal of the biopic lies in seeing an actual person who did something interesting in life, known mostly in public, transformed into a character.” Dennis Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway? The Biopic as Contemporary Film Genre (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010), 10.
  12. 12.
    Linda Williams, Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), 44. “If emotional and moral registers are sounded, if a work invites us to feel sympathy for the virtues of beset victims, if the narrative trajectory is ultimately concerned with a retrieval and staging of virtue through adversity and suffering, then the operative mode is melodrama” (15).
  13. 13.
    Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway?, 213.
  14. 14.
    Martin A. Berger, Seeing through Race: A Reinterpretation of Civil Rights Photography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).
  15. 15.
    Anna Everett lists all the controversies around the film in Anna Everett, “Spike, Don't Mess Malcolm Up,” in The Spike Lee Reader, ed. Paula J. Massoud (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008), 91–114. Mike Reynolds studies the film as a conventional biopic in Mike Reynolds, How to Analyze the Films of Spike Lee (Minneapolis: ABDO Publishing Company, 2008), 70.
  16. 16.
    Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway?, 176.
  17. 17.
    Berger, Seeing through Race, ix.
  18. 18.
    Ibid., 27.
  19. 19.
    Ibid., 20.
  20. 20.
    Dennis Carlson, “Remembering Rosa: Rosa Parks, Multicultural Education, and Dominant Narratives of the Civil Rights Movement in America,” in Grappling with Diversity: Readings on Civil Rights Pedagogy and Critical Multiculturalism, ed. Susan Schramm-Pate and Rhonda Baynes Jeffries (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2008), 21.
  21. 21.
    Williams, Playing the Race Card, 298.
  22. 22.
    Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (New York: Picador, 2003), 81.
  23. 23.
    Dennis Carlson, “Troubling Heroes: Of Rosa Parks, Multicultural Education, and Critical Pedagogy,” in Promises to Keep: Cultural Studies, Democratic Education, and Public Life, ed. Greg Dimitriadis and Dennis Carlson (New York: Routledge, 2003), 197.
  24. 24.
    Berger, Seeing through Race, 35. Andrew Hacker explains that King's mythification is linked to his nonviolent, integrationist stance, which made him an acceptable black figure in mainstream society: “Of course, King was a genuine leader with an unequalled following. Still, his adoption by whites gave him an ambiguous status— one reason why many white Americans wanted to have his birthday made a holiday was to ensure that this honor would go to someone with whom they could feel comfortable. Blacks could not object, nor was that their wish. At the same time, they sensed that he was essentially a white choice.” Andrew Hacker, Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992), 63.
  25. 25.
    Williams, Playing the Race Card, 29.
  26. 26.
    “By adhering to many of the key markers of dominant American identity while challenging the racial hierarchy, protestors presented less of a threat to mainstream society.” Berger, Seeing through Race, 25.
  27. 27.
    Dennis Carlson, “Narrating the Multicultural Nation: Rosa Parks and the White Mythology of the Civil Rights Movement,” in Off White, ed. Fine, 304.
  28. 28.
    Christine Gledhill, “The Melodramatic Field: An Investigation,” in Home Is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman's Film, ed. Christine Gledhill (London: BFI, 1987), 30.
  29. 29.
    Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991).
  30. 30.
    Dennis Carlson, “Remembering Rosa,” 16.
  31. 31.
    Such works include: Peter J. Lingand Sharon Monteith, eds., Gender and the Civil Rights Movement (1999; New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004); and Vicki L. Crawford, Jacqueline Anne Rouse, and Barbara Woods, eds., Women in the Civil Rights Movement: Trailblazers and Torchbearers, 1941–1965 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993).
  32. 32.
    Sharon Monteith, “Revisiting the 1960s in Contemporary Fiction: ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’” in Gender and the Civil Rights Movement, ed. Ling and Monteith, 232.
  33. 33.
    Dwyer, “Interpreting the Civil Rights Movement,” 11.
  34. 34.
    Jack Rothman, Hollywood in Wide Angle: How Directors View Filmmaking (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004), 98. Although Julie Dash is not presented as the interviewee in this passage, she is mentioned as one of the filmmakers interviewed. Jack Rothman introduces the extract as the “outrageous experience of a director making a biographical film (for cable) about Rosa Parks” (98).
  35. 35.
    Joyce A. Hanson, Rosa Parks: A Biography (Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Biographies, 2011), 72–73. “People learned community organizing skills in a movement dedicated to non-violent struggle even in the face of violent white resistance. During the sit-ins, the freedom rides, and the marches and demonstrations, black students and church members mingled with people from indigenous community organizations.” Gerald David Jaynes, A Common Destiny, Blacks and American Society (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1989), 163.
  36. 36.
    Carlson, “Remembering Rosa,” 19.
  37. 37.
    “Blacks hoped to insulate themselves from the very worst manifestations of racial oppression by showing fealty to mainstream, putatively white, ideals of respectable, civilized behaviour, even as they remained at all times acutely aware of their marginalized position outside the mainstream.” Marisa Chappel, Jenny Hutchinson, and Brian Ward, “‘Dress Modestly, Neatly…as If You Were Going to Church’: Respectability, Church, Class, and Gender in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Early Civil Rights Movement,” in Gender and the Civil Rights Movement, ed. Ling and Monteith, 70.
  38. 38.
    Carlson, “Remembering Rosa,” 19. Carlson also mentions the moment when Ed Nixon asks Clifford Durr to call the police and have Rosa released. The film thus reinforces the mythology of the “good white,” who gets involved in the civil rights movement to rescue black victims. “Remembering Rosa,” 19–23.
  39. 39.
    Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway?, 215.
  40. 40.
    In 1956, “upon returning to Montgomery in late June, Parks's heart sank when she saw how sick her mother was, how heavily her husband was drinking, and how many bills had been left unpaid.” Douglas Brinkley, Rosa Parks: A Life (New York: Penguin, 2000), 165.
  41. 41.
    Ibid., 175.
  42. 42.
    “Cultural studies is polarized between theories that see peoples' cultural practices as empowering for the resistant and creative meanings they produce and the more traditional Marxian interpretations that see all cultural practices as limited if not manipulated by the structures of capitalist social formations and the commodity form.” Susan Willis, “Memory and Mass Culture,” in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Geneviéve Fabre and Robert O' Meally (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 186.
  43. 43.
    Edward P. Morgan, “The Good, the Bad, and the Forgotten,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Romano and Leigh, 138. Morgan further observes: “Mass media's construction of the past is governed first and foremost by the imperative of maximizing audiences of readers. Their selective memory, then, invariably reflects fundamental economic, organization, and ideological forces at work within a capitalist economy. As such, the mass media plays a crucial role in creating the foundations of common, or near universal, public discourse and public memory within a culture” (139).
  44. 44.
    Linda Williams explains that two works have forged black stereotypes: “Uncle Tom's Cabin had deployed melos, pathos, and action to draw northerners who had previously been uninvolved in the debate over slavery into its orbit, making the ‘good nigger’ into a familiar and friendly icon, for whom whites had sympathy. Now, sixty years later, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War, The Birth of a Nation solidified North and South into a new national feeling of racial antipathy, making the black man into an object of white fear and loathing.” Williams, Playing the Race Card, 99.
  45. 45.
    “One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro: two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge this double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older to be lost… He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American.” W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1904; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 8.
  46. 46.
    Christine Gledhill, Stardom: Industry of Desire (Oxon: Routledge, 1991), 209.
  47. 47.
    Linda Williams posits that home is the “space of innocence for its many virtuous victims. Black and white racial melodrama originates in the homey virtues of Uncle Tom's cabin, which render familiar the American ‘family values’ of the African slave.” Williams, Playing the Race Card, 284.
  48. 48.
    Ibid., 252.
  49. 49.
    Ibid.
  50. 50.
    The film therefore mixes fact and fiction in what could be termed a “dramadocumentary” according to the definition given by Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight. They contend that directors use this form to “construct a dramatised representation of the social historical world,” combining “factual assumptions (accuracy, objectivity)” with “some latitude for fictional representation.” Jane Roscoe and Craig Hight, Faking It: Mock Documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2001), 54.
  51. 51.
    Pierre Nola, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Fabre and O'Meally, 284. The use of archive footage also fills a void according to Nola: “The less memory is experienced from the inside the more it exists through its exterior scaffolding and outward signs— hence the obsession with the archive that marks our age, attempting at once the complete conservation of the present as well as the total preservation of the past” (290).
  52. 52.
    Williams, Playing the Race Card, 16.
  53. 53.
    Jackie Byars, All That Hollywood Allows: Re-reading Gender in 1950s Melodrama (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 13.
  54. 54.
    Thomas Elsaesser underlines the political dimension of personal predicaments in melodrama. See Thomas Elsaesser, “Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family Melodrama,” Monogram, no. 4 (1972), repr. in Movies and Methods: An Anthology, ed. Bill Nichols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 165–189.
  55. 55.
    Steven Weisenberger, introduction to The Sins of the Father: A Romance of the South by Thomas Dixon (1912; Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004), xiv. The race melodrama dates back to Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1952 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Susan Gillman argues that race melodrama plots revolve around “the revelation of secret identities, of hidden race mixtures,” revealing racial anxieties and ambivalences. See Susan Gillman, “The Mulatto, Tragic or Triumphant? The Nineteenth-Century American Race Melodrama,” in The Culture of Sentiment: Race, Gender and Sentimentality in Nineteenth-Century America, ed. Shirley Samuels (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 222.
  56. 56.
    Susan Kay Gillman studies race melodrama in literature and points to the role of women in the genre: “Not the quietist, bourgeois form that it has usually been assumed to be, melodrama in fact mediated social and political change through the interpersonal domain, of the body, this role becoming particularly apparent on the maternal melodramas and women's films produced by American filmmakers between the wars.” Susan Kay Gillman, Blood Talk: American Race Melodrama and the Culture of the Occult (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 14.
  57. 57.
    For Claudette Colvin, Rosa Parks physically embodied the type of defendant the NAACP would put forth: “Her skin texture was the kind that people associate with the middle class,” says Colvin. “She fit that profile.” Claudette Colvin, “Before Rosa Parks, There Was Claudette Colvin,” interview by Margot Adler, NPR, March 15, 2009, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101719889. Angela Bassett's film career provides an interesting intertextual context to her interpretation of Rosa Parks: “She has consistently portrayed characters that are icons of strong black womanhood and has brought to life inspirational figures from African American history.” Karen Hollinger, The Actress: Hollywood Acting and the Female Star (London: Routledge, 2006), 188. Angela Bassett played the role of Malcolm X's wife in Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992).
  58. 58.
    Linda Williams posits that home is the “space of innocence for its many virtuous victims. Black and white racial melodrama originates in the homey virtues of Uncle Tom's cabin, which render familiar the American ‘family values’ of the African slave.” Williams, Playing the Race Card, 284.
  59. 59.
    Laura Mulvey, “Notes on Sirk and Melodrama,” in Home Is Where the Heart Is, ed. Gledhill, 75.
  60. 60.
    Carlson, “Narrating the Multicultural Nation,” 304.
  61. 61.
    Jennifer Fuller, “Debating the Present through the Past: Representations of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1990s,” in The Civil Rights Movement in American Memory, ed. Romano and Raiford, 187–88.
  62. 62.
    Pierre Nola, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,” in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Fabre and O'Meally, 285.