That Rosa Parks cited [James Weldon] Johnson as an inspiration along with giants like [Booker T.] Washington and [W.E.B.] Du Bois tells us something about her deep appreciation of him. But it's also a reminder of Parks's dignified brand of social activism. Like Johnson, Parks recalls a time when the NAACP was an important institution staffed by serious people tackling real problems faced by a marginalized race.
While laboring under the thumb of policies enacted to preserve racial inequality, these pioneers consciously compiled a large store of near-universal respect for a movement whose goals couldn't have been more principled. The passing of Parks, and what she represented, leaves us with black leaders who seem to excel in cheapening this legacy when they're not squandering it altogether.
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