Library of Congress puts Rosa Parks collection online

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
View Comments

Those interested in learning more about the life of Rosa Parks now can explore thousands of images and documents online related to the civil rights icon.

The Library of Congress was expected to announce early Thursday that the Rosa Parks Collection has been digitized.

The collection contains 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs and is on loan to the library for 10 years, officials said.

In late 2014, the library received the materials from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and in February 2015 made them available to researchers in the library’s reading rooms. Now the materials are digitized for public access.

“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, in a statement. “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 of the Civil Rights Movement on Dec. 1, 1955, when she refused to give her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Parks died 2005 in Detroit, where she had lived since 1957, at age 92.

The bus that was the catalyst of the boycott is on permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn.

Library officials said those who browse the collection will learn more details about Parks’ life and personality including her love for her husband, Raymond A. Parks, and how she struggled to find work after the bus boycott.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea that people who cannot travel and do not have the opportunity to travel will have an opportunity to see the brilliance of the mother of the modern civil rights movement,” said Elaine Steele, who, along with Parks, co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit.

Steele, a longtime friend of Parks’, worked with the library officials in providing context for many of the items in the collection, said her attorney Steven Cohen.

The Howard G. Buffett Foundation purchased the artifacts as part of a settlement between the institute and the family of Parks who were at odds over ownership, Cohen said. A court filing revealed the foundation paid $4.5 million in 2014 for the items, which had sat in storage in New York for several years.

Many of the materials include Parks’ accolades, such as her Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal, as well as personal letters and family photos. The materials span 1866 to 2006, with most the dating from 1955 to 2000, officials 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,” said Howard G. Buffett, chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, in a video the library created about acquiring the collection.

“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.”

View Comments