Biography of Rosa Parks beats distinguished competition.

Political Science Professor Wins NAACP Image Award for Book on Rosa Parks

Feb. 25, 2014

Jeanne Theoharis won the NAACP Image Award for her book on Rosa Parks. 

Theoharis talks about her book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, a comprehensive account of the life of the civil rights activist and icon.

If Jeanne Theoharis was a bit surprised to find out that Rosa Parks was more militant than most people realized, the Brooklyn College political science professor was shocked that the book she wrote about the icon earned much international acclaim and now, an Image Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Theoharis took home the award for Outstanding Literary Work this past weekend at the 45th Annual NAACP Image Awards ceremony in Pasadena, Calif., besting luminaries like Maya Angelou and Stanley Crouch who were nominated in the same category.

"I've been stunned and gratified by the reception to my book. It far surpasses anything I'd ever imagined and speaks to how hungry people are for a much fuller analysis of civil rights icons like Rosa Parks," Theoharis said after the award ceremony. "I am particularly humbled and honored by this award from the NAACP and all that it represents."

Theoharis, who has also authored other books on the civil rights and black power movements, has been speaking across the country over the past year about Parks' six decades of political activism. Her book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon, 2013), was released last year on the eve of what would have been Parks' 100th birthday. It was the first scholarly biography of Parks, and poked holes in the popular perception of her as some accidental hero by pointing out that her political activism spanned far beyond that one infamous day on a Montgomery, Ala., bus when she refused to give up her seat.

Theoharis was moved by "the politics and dangers of many of the popular images of the civil rights movement we have in circulation today," she said, arguing that a more complete story of Parks was necessary and overdue.

Despite the seriousness of her scholarship, attending the awards ceremony and rubbing elbows with celebrities—she shared a dinner table with legendary choreographer and actress Debbie Allen and singer Ravaughn Brown—"was super fun and a little giddy-feeling,"  she said, noting that her brother accompanied her to the show. "We were totally checking out all the stars."

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