Southern Women

Southern Women

By Janis Powell

Vol. 2, No. 3, 1979, pp. 28

With an official proclamation and the announcement of an annual scholarship in her name, October 16 was declared as a day to honor Rosa Parks during a rally in Atlanta’s Central City Park, co-sponsored by the Emergency Land Fund and the Southern Regional Council. It was a part of Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden’s speaking tour promoting the views of their anti-corporate and anti-nuclear Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED). The noonday event, which drew several thousand people, was held “to have the important issues of social change presented directly to the people of Atlanta and to cherish the presence of the South’s number one citizen, Rosa Parks,” according to Steve Suitts, SRC executive director.

In addressing the crowd, well-known activist and actress, Jane Fonda, said women are now the vanguard of social change, pully back “the curtain of apathy” to work for “economic rights as well as civil rights.” Fonda spoke of Rosa Parks’ ongoing contribution to the civil rights movement as being anexample of the innumerable women who have been a leading force in the struggle for equality and justice in this country.

On December 1, 1955, when a bus driver in Montgomery, Alabama, asked four Blacks to give up their seats to White passengers, one of the Blacks, Rosa Parks, refused. This corageous decision to stop obeying unjust laws prompted the formation of a year-long bus boycott by the Montgomery Improvement Association with Martin Luther King, Jr. as its president.

Despite the many acts of violence directed at the Black community for the boycott, Parks stuck by her decision to challenge the racism of the law and on November 13, 1956, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Montgomery’s bus segregation laws were unconstitutional. The boycott marked the beginning of a new era of aggressive nonviolent action on the part of Southern Blacks.

Fonda also announced the establishment of a $5,000 annual college scholarship in Rosa Parks’ name for the young Black Atlantan who demonstrated the most commitment for social activism during the previous year. The scholarship is being set up in conjunction with the National Committee for a Rosa Parks Shrine in Detroit, Michigan. Announcements for the application process will be sent to schools and civil rights groups in the near future.

The visit by Fonda and Hayden was designed to draw public attention to what they called the rapidly growing domination of American life by large corporations and the centralized nuclear power supply system. The Campaign for Economic Development is a brainchild of Hayden, 40, a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, a veteran of the anti-war movement and unsuccessful candidate in the 1976 United States Senate Race in California.

In urgihn that economic rights be the next goal of activists, the couple said they found more and more female secretaries and clerical workers starting to “knock on doors” to organize for issues of economic domocracy. In coming to the South, they said they wanted to honor the woman who started much of today’s activism.