A Legacy Preserved
Rosa Parks’ extensive archive now online at the Library of Congress.
by Michael E. Ruane
©2016, THE WASHINGTON POST
WASHINGTON—The Library of Congress announced this week that it has digitized and posted online its huge collection of papers and photographs related to the legendary U.S. Civil Rights figure Rosa Parks.
The collection contains 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs related to Mrs. Parks, who made headlines on Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
What followed was the historic 380-day African American boycott of Montgomery buses, a U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating the city’s public transportation and the Civil Rights Movement. Mrs. Parks died in Detroit in 2005 at 92.
The collection, parts of which were previously unknown to historians, was purchased in 2014 by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and deposited with the library on a 10-year loan.
It shows Mrs. Parks as a civil rights warrior and a woman who loved her family. She was especially devoted to her mother, Leona, and husband, Raymond, for whom she kept her hair in long braids even after he died. It includes Mrs. Parks’ tiny Bible; a snapshot of the Tuskegee, Alabama, house where she was born in 1913; and letters to her mother and husband.
“Parks, my dear husband,” she wrote him in 1957, while she was working in Virginia and he was home in Alabama. “I miss you so very much and wish you were here.”
There are little-known photos of her husband, who was also an activist and who quietly supported her and weathered death threats as she traveled the country. One shot of him is a wallet-size photo she carried with her.
David Mao, acting Librarian of Congress, called it “a great privilege” to open the Rosa Parks Collection and “help people worldwide discover more about her active life and her deep commitment to civil rights.”
The library said it has created a video that tells the story of how it acquired and prepared the collection.
To access the archive, visit the Library of Congress website at http://loc.gov.