ROSA PARKS, 1913-2005

Bruce Shapiro writes: Rosa Parks’s bold refusal to sit in the colored section of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955 ignited the civil rights movement not because her protest was singular but because it was strategic: Coming a year after Brown v. Board of Education, the bus boycott moved the demand for desegregation from the courtroom to the streets. It’s useful for myth-making to describe Parks as a weary department-store seamstress who simply took a stand. But actually she was a dedicated activist, secretary of the Montgomery NAACP and schooled at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, a central meeting point for the South’s labor and desegregation movements. Her protest took courage, but her courage steered her into a movement, not a solitary gesture. And when Jesse Jackson said that Parks “sat down in order that we might stand up,” he was talking not just of legal precedent but of pride. Rosa Parks, great-grandchild of a black slave and a white plantation owner, redeemed America’s Constitution and showed civil disobedience as the road to equality under law. She was a revolutionary.

THE NEW FED HEAD

■ William Greider on Ben Bernanke, who was named to succeed Alan Greenspan as Federal Reserve chair: He should seem quite charming to people because he is fluent in English, but as Fed chair, Bernanke might abandon the habit of saying clearly what he means once he encounters the irrational upsets of financial markets. Style aside, Bernanke worships at the same church of hard money as Greenspan. He spent the past few months interning at the White House as chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and presumably passed muster as reliably Republican in his views. Still, the GOP may regret the choice if Bernanke sticks to his convictions. As Fed governor he advocated that the Fed publish an explicit target for price inflation. An inflation target would handcuff the Federal Reserve to the bond market’s very conservative expectations, and that could produce slower economic growth than necessary. This inflexibility is not good for the folks, nor for political incumbents. Even Greenspan thought the idea was too conservative.