What part did Civil Rights Figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks play in The Autobiography of Miss. Jane Pittman?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While Dr. King and Rosa Parks are not immediate figures in the narrative, they do occupy significant roles.  Figures like them are what inspires Jimmy Aaron to return to where Jane lives and encourages the people in her community to protest.  Dr. King and Rosa Parks were so important because of the example they set to others and, in turn, the examples that these individuals set to more helped to broaden the Civil Rights Movement.  In an activism based form of "pay it forward," Dr. King and Rosa Parks help to inspire leaders like Jimmy to reach out to their own communities and convince them of the need to take action.  Jimmy's meeting of Dr. King is inspirational.  It is here where I think that figures like Rosa Parks and Dr. King occupy importance as Jimmy uses Dr. King's protests as an example of how the church members can model his protests in Louisiana for change.  Like Dr. King who was gunned down, Jimmy is the victim to violence.  And like Dr. King, his example lives on as Jane recognizes the sacrifice and continues the protest even though she is old.  Her protest and significance in the move from slave to activist is where figures like Dr. King and Rosa Parks are so important in Jane's narrative.