New Rosa Parks Archive is Now Online: Features 7,500 Manuscripts & 2,500 Photographs, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

It’s telling that the Library of Con­gress, in dig­i­tiz­ing its vast Rosa Parks Col­lec­tion in close to its entire­ty, had to resort to a “rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple” of chil­dren’s greet­ing cards. The lady had no short­age of admir­ers at the ele­men­tary school lev­el.

Parks Kids Card

It’s not sur­pris­ing that Parks’ refusal to yield her bus seat to a white pas­sen­ger in Mont­gomery, Alaba­ma in 1955 res­onates with chil­dren. The sto­ry has the sim­plic­i­ty of a fable, and Parks’ pluck is irre­sistible. It’s as if she took a sling­shot and aimed it right between the eyes of the seg­re­gat­ed South.

It’s easy to con­vey how impor­tant her spon­ta­neous act of resis­tance was to the Civ­il Rights Move­ment. How­ev­er, those few min­utes on Bus 2857 can­not be all there is to a woman whose life spanned nine decades (1913–2005). They are just the his­tor­i­cal equiv­a­lent of a role that an actor can­not escape—great, but ulti­mate­ly lim­it­ing.

The online archive helps to flesh out this icon­ic fig­ure beyond the con­fines of a child’s cray­oned por­trait.

Among the trea­sures are:

Scanned book cov­ers from her per­son­al library

Parks Gandhi
A busi­ness card from her stint as a staffer for Con­gress­man John Cony­ers of Michi­gan… (Parks moved to Detroit short­ly after the Mont­gomery Bus Boy­cott, after both she and her hus­band were dis­missed from their jobs.)

Parks Business Card

Hand­writ­ten rem­i­nis­cences about her rur­al Alaba­ma child­hood…

Parks Childhood

Doc­u­men­ta­tion of speak­ing engage­ments and oth­er pub­lic appear­ances…

Parks Baltimore

A hand­writ­ten pan­cake recipe…

Parks Pancakes

Cor­re­spon­dence from a bevy of high­ly rec­og­niz­able names

And of course, many, many reflec­tions hav­ing to do with the most pub­licly mem­o­rable day in an extreme­ly long life.

Most of the col­lec­tion can be viewed online and the Library has a teach­ing aid with sug­ges­tions on using these pri­ma­ry sources in the class­room. The video below con­tains some high­lights of the col­lec­tion, as well as tech­ni­cal infor­ma­tion on how its con­tents have been pre­served for future gen­er­a­tions.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

‘Tired of Giv­ing In’: The Arrest Report, Mug Shot and Fin­ger­prints of Rosa Parks (Decem­ber 1, 1955)

Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. Writes a List of 16 Sug­ges­tions for African-Amer­i­cans Rid­ing New­ly-Inte­grat­ed Bus­es (1956)

Read Mar­tin Luther King and The Mont­gomery Sto­ry: The Influ­en­tial 1957 Civ­il Rights Com­ic Book

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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