Rosa Parks became a powerful symbol of courage and defiance in the Civil Rights Movement by simply refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus, as the racist culture of that time dictated she was supposed to do.

Only, there was nothing simple about it.

As personally courageous as she was, Parks wasn’t alone that day. Nor was her defiance simply the spontaneous reaction of a woman who was tired — tired after a long day of work, tired of domineering white rule, tired of going along to get along.

hightower-rosaparks-Shavar Ross

Shavar Ross/Flickr

Parks belonged to a deep and wide grassroots movement for African-American rights and dignity. This movement developed the sit-in strategy, trained Parks for this moment of refusal, and surrounded her with the support and love she needed to withstand the clamor of hate that followed.

Rosa Parks wasn’t alone on that bus.

Half a century later, a new movement for justice is following in the footsteps and in the spirit of those earlier civil rights activists. Steadily building broad grassroots coalitions of civil rights groups, labor, church leaders, students, teachers, environmentalists, retirees, and others, this movement is rising across the South.

This promising and progressive uprising is gaining popular support by directly confronting the immorality of extremist governors, lawmakers, and corporate lobbyists who are denying health care to poor families, preventing both the elderly and students from voting, gutting state funding for public education, and generally legislating a permanent state of inequality and injustice for millions of people.

It began last year in North Carolina as the “Moral Monday” movement, named for its weekly peaceful protests at the state capitol. This movement has now spread to “Moral Monday Georgia” and “Truthful Tuesday” in South Carolina. To follow its progress and offer support, visit the North Carolina NAACP’s website.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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