The small stage at Koelbel Library found upon it the commanding presence of Rosa Parks. “In that day, there were 40,000 Negroes in Montgomery, Alabama,” but barely any were registered to vote, …
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The small stage at Koelbel Library found upon it the commanding presence of Rosa Parks.
“In that day, there were 40,000 Negroes in Montgomery, Alabama,” but barely any were registered to vote, said Becky Stone, a National Endowment for the Humanities and Chautauqua scholar, portraying the civil rights activist.
She took the audience back to 1955, where decades of segregation in the South had built up after the Civil War and flew in the face of the amendments to the Constitution that followed it, which aimed to establish equality for black Americans.
Parks, a longtime member of the Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, joined that organization in 1943, the same year a bus driver had Parks removed — 12 years before the more famous incident where she would refuse to give up her seat.
And, as fate would have it, that same bus driver had her ejected from the bus in 1955.
Her removal set off a chain of events that saw the historic bus boycott and a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court outlawing bus segregation.
Stone immersed the library audience in lesser-known facts, too. The famous photo of Parks looking out of a bus window was a posed picture for the press — on a bus that, yet again, was driven by James Blake, the same bus driver that had her removed. In the photo, she sits in front of a white member of the media.
“I had been standing up to white people all my life, and (that driver) was no different,” Stone said, answering questions in character as Parks after her performance.
Stone, 70, who lives near Asheville, North Carolina, performed in the Feb. 27 event, titled “History Reimagined: The Rosa Parks Story.” She also has portrayed Maya Angelou and Harriet Tubman and has done portrayals since 2003, she said.
Stone's performances are usually attended by largely white, older and well-educated audiences, she said. Stone enjoys the chance to highlight black history and help bridge racial gaps.
“I treasure the opportunity to bring who we are as a people to people who don't know us,” Stone said.
Koelbel Library is located at 5955 S. Holly St. in Centennial.
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