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Rosa Parks is best known to Americans as a national treasure — the little old lady who sat down on a bus and “ended racism.” What we lose in that depiction is what happened before and afterward, which is to say most of the story of Park’s lifetime of activism. Soledad O’Brien, the award-winning journalist and producer, has just executive produced the first ever full-length documentary on the Civil Rights icon, titled “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.” based on the book by Jeanne Theoharis, and directed by Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton. The film tells a much fuller story of the woman best known for her role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The film is also being used to create a curriculum for K-12 students. Laura welcomes back Soledad for this revealing conversation on Parks, her legacy, and what the media got wrong. Why is it essential to dispel the myths and to fully understand the role that strategic organizing played in the actions of Rosa Parks, and the implications for her life, and ours today?

“Who knew Rosa Parks was a fan of the Black Panthers? Who knew Rosa Parks was as much of a fan of Malcolm X as she was of Dr. King? What does it say about this vision we had of Rosa Parks, where everybody knows her and yet even Hollywood celebrities can’t identify this woman who’s called the mother of the movement.”

“I talk about mistakes I made all the time. I don’t mind. I’m happy to, I did them. They exist on tape somewhere. It’s okay, let’s fix it. Let’s get better from it. I think we just need more introspection.”


Soledad O’Brien: CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions; Award-winning Journalist, Producer & Philanthropist; Executive Producer, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

Portions of this interview are featured in our episode “Soledad O’Brien on Rosa Parks: The Untold Story”.