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Rosa Parks was an American civil rights activist whose refusal to give up her seat on a public bus precipitated the —56 Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama, which became the spark that ignited the civil rights movement in the United States. The boycott also helped give rise to the American civil rights movement. Rosa Parks was not the first Black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated bus, though her story attracted the most attention nationwide. Nine months before Parks, year-old Claudette Colvin had refused to give up her bus seat, as had dozens of other Black women throughout the history of segregated public transit. In Rosa Parks published Rosa Parks: My Storyan autobiography written with Jim Haskins that described her role in the American civil rights movementbeyond her refusal to give up her seat on a segregated public bus to white passengers.


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He died of an aneurysm at 62 in Parks died at 92 on Oct. Chriss, a journalist now raising her three young daughters, wrote a poem last month about the picture and the way her father became "the white man. The two, the only figures visible on the bus, seem a few inches and a universe apart, each seemingly looking at and for something utterly different. It was staged, but I don't think it inaccurately represented anything.

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Brinkley said. She told her teacher that was her granddad up there.

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Gray, now 74, says the picture reflects reality even if the moment it captures wasn't entirely real. It was three paragraphs in the middle of a 2,word article he wrote for The Chronicle in about his experiences covering the civil rights movement. The man on the bus, Nicholas C. Chriss, was not some irritated Alabama segregationist preserved for history but a reporter working at the time for United Press International out of Atlanta. Parks's case became the one the legal challenge was based upon.

The triumphant case from Montgomery that declared the city's segregated bus system illegal was not based on her case, but on that of four other plaintiffs, including Ms. Colvin and Ms. And rather than a simple seamstress who dared to "think different," Mrs. Parks was a longtime N. Gray, the civil rights lawyer. She seemed to want to savor the event alone. Everyone knows her. It's just a reminder that history is almost always more complicated and surprising than the images that most effectively tell its story.

It shows a somber Mrs. Parks seated on the bus looking calmly out the window. It's not a photo about him. Chriss, whose family moved to Ridgewood from California in It's on the bus my daughter Alison takes to school now.

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But his role in the picture was not included in his obituary, and interviews with almost a dozen veterans of that era -- historians; reporters; photographers; book publishers; the Montgomery civil rights lawyer, Fred Gray, who represented Mrs. Parks in court -- did not turn up a single one who knew the man's identity.

Except for Catherine Chriss, his daughter.

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But to this day no one has ever made clear that it was a reporter, I, covering this event and sitting behind Mrs. Parks, not some sullen white segregationist! But then the images and history of that era, so stark and powerful on their own, are seldom so simple. Brinkley does not identify Mr. Chriss in the book and says that a reporter and two photographers from Look magazine arranged for the picture. He explained that the picture was taken on Dec. Actually, the ruling had come a month earlier, but it was not until Dec.

He said that he boarded the bus in downtown Montgomery and that he and Mrs. Parks were the only riders up front. At the front of a bus, ly reserved for white riders, is Rosa Parks, face turned to the window to her left, seemingly lost in thought as she rides through Montgomery, Ala.

In the seat behind her is a young white man looking to his right, his face hard, almost expressionless. Chriss, who said she always thought the picture was, in effect, a photo-op, said she thought her father's identity should be known, not to give him a spot in history and certainly not to detract from the picture's power, but because in the end it tells what really happened in a picture that's become a part of history in itself.

It's now on almost any bus in New York City and many of its suburbs, an invitation not just to remember but to reflect.

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But it makes me proud to know he was a big part of history. He said Mrs. Parks told him she was reluctant to take part in the picture, but both the journalists and members of the civil rights community wanted an image that would dramatize what had occurred.

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She didn't believe her. He wrote: "It was a historic occasion.

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Without him, that would not be the photo that wakes everyone up to the changes in our history. Similar photo opportunities were arranged for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Chriss then agreed to sit behind her for the purpose of the picture. The other famous images of her, a mug shot and a picture of her being fingerprinted, don't date to Dec. They were taken on Feb. Parks was not the first black bus rider in Montgomery to refuse to give up her seat.

None of that diminishes the achievement or her life, just as, perhaps, the true story of the picture need not detract from its power. But isn't.

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Seated just behind her is a hard-eyed white man. Still, if little known, the history of the picture is explored in at least one source, the biography of Rosa Parks by Douglas Brinkley, first published in as part of the Penguin Lives series of biographies. He added: "There have been so many misstatements and inaccuracies about the whole movement, to see something staged does not bother me at all. For starters, many people assume the famous picture of Mrs. Parks captures the events of Dec. Not true. In the last few years, she's been amazed at how visible the picture has become.

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It was a great scoop for me, but Mrs. Parks had little to say. Brinkley said Mrs. Parks told him that she had left her home at the Cleveland Courts housing project specifically for a picture on a bus, and that the idea was for her to be seated in the front of the bus with a white man behind. When Alison was in second grade, her classroom had that border with African-American heroes and leaders and there's the picture. I was then with the United Press International wire service.

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In the end, the reality of the picture may be a matter more for journalists than historians to ponder -- staging a picture today without identifying the participants would be viewed as unethical, but it was more acceptable then. No one knows him.

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And, like his identity, hidden in plain sight, unknown even to the veterans of that era still living, what's most telling about the real story of the black woman and the white man is how much of what we think we know is what we read into the picture, not what's there. A UPI photographer took a picture of Mrs.

Parks on the bus. The angry man. The one who looks like he's a banker.

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On December 1, , during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a year-old woman took a seat on the bus on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress.


Instead of going to the back of the bus, which was deated for African Americans, she sat in the front.