Today is Rosa Parks Day, in honor of the civil rights leader Rosa Parks.
On December 1, 1955, after full day of work, Rosa Parks boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She took a seat in the colored section, but as she rode the Cleveland Avenue bus home, the bus began to fill.
The Montgomery city ordinance allowed bus drivers to assign seating. It DID NOT permission for them to demand a passenger give up their seat. Despite this, bus drivers had regularly demanded black passengers give up their seats to white passengers when the public transportation became full.
When Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat, she refused. She was arrested and what followed is Civil Rights history. She was found guilty on December 5, 1955, of violating the city ordinance and fined $10 plus a court fee.
African American leaders, including E.D. Nixon and Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott for the day of Rosa Park’s trial. The boycott was a success and lasted several months, shattering the transportation system in Montgomery.
There have been many films and video projects made over the years on the subject of civil rights, but we focus here on a few that connect this theme through the power of music.
Strange Fruit has had several iterations, based on the amazing song by Billie Holiday. Many people assume that the song "Strange Fruit" was written by Holiday, but it actually began as a poem by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, he wrote the tune under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in the late 1930s. "Strange Fruit" was first performed at a New York teachers' union meeting and was caught the interest of the manager of Cafe Society, the Greenwich Village nightclub, who then introduced Billie Holiday to the writer. Holiday's record label refused to record the song but Holiday persisted and recorded it on a specialty label anyway.
For a video bio visit Kanopy here: And for another cool video, see Diana Ross as Billie Holiday here:
One of the more successful documentaries on the subject of civil rights is What Happened, Miss Simone? nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. Simone found purpose in the civil rights movement, and realized she could use her fame and talents to support the fight for equality.
To see the movie on Netflix click here: For iTunes click here:
Finally, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 interweaves 16mm material shot by Swedish Journalists who came to America, interested in stories around revolution and urban conflict. The filmmakers managed to capture phenomenal, intimate interviews of leasers of the Black Power Movement. The result is a unique and powerful documentary. See full movie at IFC here or on youtube here.
For more movies on Civil Rights movement, see 50 Best Films About the Civil Rights Movement at huffpost here:
Here's to you Rosa Parks. Thank you!
Filmmaking for Change
This Filmmaking for Change section will present the Articles written for our Substack channel.
We will cover the movies, shows and media around the subject of Cause Cinema, where we celebrate the power of entertainment for change.
Thanks for joining us!
Human Rights Archive