This lesson was inspired by the title of Jeanne Theoharis’s book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks. In this activity, instead of students representing different individuals as they do in other mixers, every student portrays a different rebellious moment in Rosa Parks’ life. And through meeting one another, students surface the patterns of defiance on behalf of justice that coursed through her life. By sharing stories with each other, students are able to pry behind the “she was just tired” myth.
It makes no difference how much or how little students know about Rosa Parks; the mixer should help them gain a broader appreciation for her life of commitment and, yes, rebellion.
In writing these short scenes, when possible, I have used Rosa Parks’ own words. Other times, the descriptions draw on the words of other people recounting their memories of what Mrs. Parks said. Sometimes the roles are taken word-for-word from the elegant prose of Jeanne Theoharis. And, in fact, a few of these roles were written by Theoharis herself, who has reviewed the full activity and has graciously allowed the use of her book for this lesson.
This lesson accompanies the book The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks and the 2022 documentary film of the same name.