Jeanne Theoharis Profile picture
Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College, Author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks and A More Beautiful and Terrible History
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Jan 29 11 tweets 3 min read
I had the privilege of addressing the @KairosCenterNYC "3rd Survival Summit on the Right to Welfare" about the history of welfare in the US. Four moments we need to understand on the history of welfare in the US. A thread: Welfare comes into federal practice during the New Deal with the 1935 Social Security Act. The paradox of the New Deal is that it established a social citizenship and a safety net for Americans, changing people's relationship to the federal government —AND widened the racial gap.
Jan 17 10 tweets 3 min read
It's important today to remember that Martin Luther King had personal experience with police abuse & a systematic critique of the role of the police in the North as well as the South. Yet he is often mis-used and falsely pitted against contemporary moments like BLM. A thread: King understood his own vulnerability vis-a-vis the police. His first arrest during the Montgomery bus boycott was for driving 5 miles over the speed limit; they didn't give him a ticket but made him get in the police car & drove him around.He thought they were going to kill him.
Nov 20, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
Re Rittenhouse, as many have noted, there is a long history of white people targeting those white people who side with Black activism & challenge white supremacy --and a lack of state intervention when they do. A short thread: During the Montgomery bus boycott, Rev. Bob and Jean Graetz spoke out in favor of the boycott in church, worked on behalf of the boycott, sat in the "Black" section at the movie theater. Their house was bombed twice: nytimes.com/2020/12/19/us/…
Oct 23, 2021 10 tweets 3 min read
I was speaking to @UniteThePoor Poor People's Moral Congress about the history--& myths surrounding--the 1963 March on Washington to prepare for the march they are planning for June 18, 2022. 8 things about the March on Washington we need to better understand the past & present: 1. Not the 1st March on Washington organized. In 1941 A. Philip Randolph began organizing to bring 100,000 Black people to protest discrimination in defense industries & army. Fearing international criticism, FDR issues Exec. Order 8802, ending defense industry discrimination.
Jul 4, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
If there is an FBI in the afterlife, beware. My father, Athan Theoharis, died yesterday.The son of a Greek immigrant who grew up poor in Milwaukee & scored a scholarship to the Univ. of Chicago at 16; a Marquette University historian who devoted his life to documenting FBI abuses and bit by bit, amassed the files to expose it. You can’t wait to publish till it’s perfect, he cautioned;the world needs it now. A teacher willing to counsel anyone—scholars, journalists, activists, high school students, people whose politics he hated—on how to research the FBI.
Jan 17, 2021 7 tweets 3 min read
On this King holiday, one of the greatest distortions of Dr. King's legacy in recent years has been how people try to use King to chastise Black Lives Matter--erasing King's long history calling out police brutality North & South and his challenge Northern liberals. A thread: From the beginning of SCLC, King was clear segregation & racial injustice were a national cancer not just a Southern issue.“There is a pressing need for a liberalism in the North that is truly liberal, that believes in integration in his own community as well as..the deep South.”
Apr 26, 2020 7 tweets 2 min read
As appalling & dishonest as comparisons being made to #RosaParks by conservatives this week, they couldn't get away with it as blithely if liberals didn't already misuse & mischaracterize lifelong freedom fighter Rosa Parks (without broad reproach). A short historical reminder: On February 27, 2013, a bipartisan group of Congressional leaders joined Pres. Obama to dedicate the Rosa Parks statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. On that very same day across town, the Supreme Court was hearing arguments in voting rights case Shelby County v Holder.
Feb 4, 2020 11 tweets 5 min read
TDIH, Rosa Parks was born. While many know she wasn't a simple apolitical seamstress, her ideas about US racism & struggle are still largely unrecognized. So for today—at a time in this country when we need her ideas more than ever—a short thread highlighting Parks as a thinker: White supremacy “walks us on a tightrope from birth,” Parks explained, highlighting the “major mental acrobatic feat” it took to survive. She struggled with the pressure to submit. There was “no solution for us who could not easily conform to this oppressive way of life.”
Dec 1, 2019 9 tweets 2 min read
64 yrs ago,"pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed," Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus.She was a longtime activist around criminal justice, voting rights, desegregation but her bus stand was not planned that day. 6 key points to get us beyond the myths: Rosa Parks was not passive or meet or quiet in key moments. In fact, that day when the police came to asked her why she didn't move, she spoke back, "Why do you push us around?" One of the officers was surprised, "I don't know. But the law is the law & you're under arrest."
Jun 30, 2019 4 tweets 1 min read
Pro tip: being against "forced busing" was the preferred northern way to oppose desegregation (while distinguishing themselves from the south). Most students were bused before "busing" without objection from white parents. As Julian Bond observed, "It's not the bus, it's us." The language of "neighborhood schools" was new after Brown and emerged as a Northern way to oppose desegregation. Northern sponsors of the 1964 Civil Rights Act built a loophole in the legislation for their white constituents to prevent their own schools from being desegregated.
Feb 28, 2019 4 tweets 2 min read
Rosa Parks' history reminds us how activists need other activists. In speeches during the boycott, she referenced “Reading histories of others—Crispus Attucks .. ...Phyllis Wheatley, Sojourner Truth,Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod Bethune...courage to stand by conviction.” Rosa Parks is mentored by Ella Baker & Septima Clark. Her sense of agency as a woman activist is nurtured by an NAACP workshop Baker organizes in 1945. Clark leads workshop Parks attends at Highlander in 1955. Parks is awed by Clark's "calm" while she felt "anxious and bitter."
Feb 4, 2019 13 tweets 4 min read
TDIH, on Feb.. 4, 1913, Rosa Parks was born. Her grandfather was a supporter of Marcus Garvey; when Klan violence escalated after WWI, he would sit out at night with his shotgun to protect their family home. As a 6 year old, she would sometimes sit vigil with him. At the age of 19, she married a politically-active barber Raymond Parks-"the first real activist I ever met"-who was organizing to protect & defend the Scottsboro boys from execution. This was dangerous work--she recalled late night meetings with guns on the table for protection.