Archaeology’s Rosa Parks Moment

Here at diggingthedirt we’ve long since given up on the idea that the profession can articulate a meaningful position on which we all agree. The core mission of academic archaeology is at odds with the core mission of commercial sector archaeology is at odds with the core mission of ‘community’ archaeology.

A plurality that in any other part of the economic cycle might be a cause for celebration – has become a cacophony of mixed messages and understated apologies presented in a guilt-edged invitation to the axe-mans blade.

But then came Councillor Dick, and his clarion call to archaeologists; ‘make like geese’ he said, ‘and get the flock out of here.’

The bunny huggers were being called to question.

And they answered. Now, are we all sitting comfortably?

Once upon a time in Alabama, a 42-year-old woman called Rosa Parks refused a bus-driver’s order that she give up her seat for a white woman.

After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m. Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the “colored” section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers. Initially, she had not noticed that the bus driver was the same man, James F. Blake, who had left her in the rain in 1943. As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded.

So, following standard practice, bus driver Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and two or three white men were standing. He then moved the “colored” section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit.

When Parks refused to give up her seat, a police officer arrested her. As the officer took her away, she recalled that she asked, “Why do you push us around?” The officer’s response as she remembered it was, “I don’t know, but the law’s the law, and you’re under arrest.” She later said, “I only knew that, as I was being arrested, that it was the very last time that I would ever ride in humiliation of this kind.

Leading to Montgomery Bus Boycott, the personal act of civil disobedience was one of the major flash points in the Civil Rights movement – becoming a symbol and an icon of resistance around which others could rally.[Source]

So here’s the question for the archaeology profession: is bunnygate our Rosa Parks moment?

There’s a new website in town – – that makes us at the very least hope that it might be.
We followed the Mortimer campaign in its gagillion word email/chat-room infancy, and sat horrendously hung-over through the British Museum session on ‘Archaeology after the Cuts’ that inspired it’s birth.

Contrary to expectation, they’ve come back with a well designed website underpinned by an actual initiative to continue the debate – inviting Councillor Dick to go head to head with… OK, so maybe we won’t dwell on that bit.

The point is they are doing something. And in this age of petrified apathy, that has to be championed.

Venue: The Waterloo Conference Centre, Sandell Street, London SE1 8UJ

Date: 29 July 2011

Time: 7.30pm

Check the website and register for the debate by clicking HERE

Free T-Shirt for anyone who dons a pair of bunny ears and gets a photo hugging Melton.

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