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.
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:
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.)
Handwritten reminiscences about her rural Alabama childhood…
Documentation of speaking engagements and other public appearances…
A handwritten pancake recipe…
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.