The collection, which contains approximately 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs, is on loan to the Library for 10 years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The Library received the materials in late 2014, formally opened them to researchers in the Library’s reading rooms in February 2015 and now has digitized them for optimal access by the public.
“It’s 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 and to children,” said David Mao, Acting Librarian of Congress. “From the thoughtful reflections she left us in her own handwriting to her “Featherlite Pancakes” recipe and smiling portraits, you’ll find much to explore in this collection about Mrs. Parks’ life beyond the bus.”
Parks became an iconic figure in history on December 1, 1955, when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a seminal event in the Civil Rights Movement. Parks died at age 92 in 2005.
The collection reveals many details of Parks’ life and personality, from her experiences as a young girl in the segregated South to her difficulties in finding work after the Montgomery Bus Boycott; from her love for her husband to her activism on civil rights issues.
Included in the collection are personal correspondence; family photographs; letters from presidents; fragmentary drafts of some of her writings from the time of the Montgomery Bus Boycott; her Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal; additional honors and awards; presentation albums, drawings sent to her by schoolchildren and hundreds of greeting cards from individuals thanking her for her impact on civil rights. The vast majority of these items may be viewed online. Other material is available to researchers through the Manuscript and Prints and Photographs reading rooms.
The Library of Congress has created a video, which tells the story of acquiring and preparing the collection: www.loc.gov/today/cyberlc/feature_wdesc.php?rec=7081.
In the video, Howard G. Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation said, “I think it’s so important for us to remember the iconic figures that changed our lives and gave us what we have and preserved what we have . . . Rosa Parks showed how much difference one person can make. It’s important for our children to see that and to really embrace it and understand it. Without getting this collection out of the boxes and out of the warehouse and in front of people, that wasn’t going to happen. And so, I thought we should make sure that this was in a place where millions of people can see it and benefit from it and, obviously, the Library of Congress, there’s no place better than this facility and this team to do that.”
The Rosa Parks Collection joins additional important civil rights materials at the Library of Congress, including: the papers of Thurgood Marshall; A. Philip Randolph; Bayard Rustin; Roy Wilkins; and the records of both the NAACP and the National Urban League. The collection becomes part of the larger story of our nation, available alongside the presidential papers of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, and the papers of many others who fought for equality, including Susan B. Anthony, Patsy Mink and Frank Kameny.
To support teachers and students as they explore this one-of-a-kind collection, the Library is offering a Primary Source Gallery with classroom-ready highlights from the Rosa Parks papers and teaching ideas for educators.
For more information, see www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/presentationsandactivities/presentations/rosa-parks-gallery/.