According to Professor Robin D.G. Kelley, who has written on the Communist Party’s involvement in the early days of the civil rights movement in Alabama, Parks and her husband were regular attendees at communist meetings in the 1930’s.
Kelley, who is currently Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, shared his own journey as a member of the Communist Party in a 2003 Minnesota Review article. Kelley also touched on his 1990 book Hammer and Hoe chronicling the rise of the Communist Party in Alabama during the Great Depression.
Kelley doesn’t mention Parks attended the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee weeks before her arrest in Montgomery. Highlander, a kind of training facility for community organizers was started by two members of the Communist Party in 1954. There Parks learned about Ghandi and the effectiveness of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Later on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael also attended sessions at the school. Trouble is Highlander was founded by the same two men who set up Commonwealth College. Commonwealth was cited in a secret report on communism reprinted by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. On April 27, 1947, the U.S. Attorney General listed Commonwealth College as a communist front. The College had displayed a hammer and sickle and openly taught communism.Continue reading →