A Rosa Parks Feature Biopic May Be Coming to Theaters for the First Time

Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955
Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955
Photo: Gene Herrick, File (AP Photo)

Rosa Parks’ legacy has been depicted in several forms, including the 2001 Academy Award-nominated documentary Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks, and the 2002 TV movie The Rosa Parks Story, starring Angela Bassett. Still, we have yet to see an epic feature biopic on the big screen about the iconic civil rights activist.

Winter Slate Entertainment is expected to start filming one in 2019, Deadline reports. It has the perfect biopic title, too: Rosa. The film, written by Charlie Kessler and Hamid Torabpour, will focus on the 24-hour period following Parks’ unforgettable Montgomery, Alabama arrest on December 1, 1955. Bring on the Academy Award nominations.

“While most Americans have heard of Rosa Parks, the details of what happened on the night she was arrested, and her lifetime of political courage and activism, are largely unknown,” said Brooklyn College Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Jeanne Theoharis in a statement. “The real story of Rosa Parks is far different, and even more inspiring and relevant for our times than the tale most children learn in school.” Theoharis is the author of 2014 NAACP Image Award-honored book, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks and will serve as the consulting producer on the film.

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Theoharis refutes any “fable” depictions of a seamstress who was simply too tired to sit on the bus and instead highlighted the power force who had been very active in her local NAACP chapter prior to the notable segregated bus moment. Additionally, the acclaimed author pointed out the staged photo-ops (see: that legendary fingerprint photo in the header above, and the famous photo of the activist calmly looking out of a bus window, as a reporter sits behind her) taken as late as months after the arrest.

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“We fall back on stock images. We fall back on the ways we’re comfortable with her, as a quiet seamstress in a movement that was long ago,” Theoharis told TIME in 2015. “But Rosa Parks at the end of her life was saying there’s still more work to be done.”

A portion of the film’s proceeds will be donated to The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institution for Self Development, which was co-founded by Parks in 1987.

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“We are excited about the upcoming movie and are honored that Winter State and the team of filmmakers plan to contribute to The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development,” said the institute’s co-founder, Elaine Steele. “We are confident that the filmmakers of Rosa will bring quality and their commitment to accuracy to this important historical event.”

This exactly what is needed: a real, non-watered down story. I am cautious, but optimistic specifically given the institution’s involvement here.

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There’s another Rosa Parks biopic in the works entitled, At The Dark End of the Street, an upcoming look at her early activism, a whole decade before the historic bus refusal, from Julie Dash and Invisible Pictures. The film is based on the novel of the same name, which is based on Parks’ involvement and advocacy following the rape of Recy Taylor.

Now, the ultimate important question: who will portray Rosa Parks?

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

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DISCUSSION

swesaysay
FlamingFeminista

Yay, you mentioned At The Dark End of the Street, by Danielle McGuire! This thesis becoming a book and movie, I hope they don’t leave out all the history-shattering ideas! Everything you think you know about Rosa Parks, who started the Civil Rights movement, it’s focus, everything is going to change. Please Lord, don’t let them Green Book’ it and put white people at the center!

Rosa Parks should NOT be known for the bus boycott! She was a quiet, studious BadAss SUPERHERO who diligently interviewed rape victims, sometimes in secret after dark because it was so dangerous to seek justice for Black women! She didn’t just advocate, she WORKED; petitioned governors to prosecute, took cases to court, multiple times! There’s firsthand stories (people are still alive!) of how collectively and viciously white men preyed on Black women with absolutely no fear of accountability! Everybody knows Black men were lynched but no one talks about the numbers of Black women who were raped! You’ll meet the Black daddy who sat up in a tree with his shotgun to protect his daughter from white boys retaliating for even reporting a rape that wasn’t prosecuted! Or 4 white boys in the car everyone in town knew who kidnapped a woman pulling a shotgun on her mother and brother across the street from the church and Sheriff’s Office! Or the strategies of how Black people managed carpools and chicken stands in lots during the Bus Boycott.

That book shows how men hijacked Rosa Parks’ networks and established tactics (yep all the alphabets SNIC, SCLC) and pushed MLK to be the face (sexism) and de-emphasized the rape of women!

Whoo, I could go on for days! Anyone who thinks history gets shaped, conspiracy theorists, feminists and those who wanna know the real and peek behind the curtain, get this at your library! And for every Kanye who thinks Black men or Women just quietly accepted slavery or mistreatment afterward...read this book’s part about the white woman who threatened to slap the uppity, boycotting Black woman and what she said!

I don’t like non-fiction and never wrote to an author. She’s a professor at Wayne State U in Detroit who graciously wrote me back! Get this book, people!