Emblazoned on the memories of Americans young and old is the story of Rosa Parks, the African-American woman who refused to give up her seat on a bus, in 1955. Her defiance lit the fuse for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and made Parks a hero of the US civil rights movement.
Digitized documents, released online to the public yesterday (Feb. 25) by the Library of Congress, gives an inside look at Park’s world.
The 7500 documents and 250 photographs cover 140 years of Parks’s life and legacy. They include correspondences with Martin Luther King, Jr. and with her mother, as well as scraps of writing about the pain of oppression.
In an email to Quartz, Helena Zinkham, the library’s acting director of collections, writes that she hopes the archive will provide “a better sense of what it was like to be an activist—the risks taken by Mrs. Parks, the influences on her life, and how she motivated others.”
“Most people have the perception that Rosa Parks was the lady who wore pink, the lady who always had a beautiful purse,” says Maricia Battle, of the library’s prints and photographs department, in a video. But what the files show, she says, “is that she was a lion underneath all of that.”
The collection is on loan to the Library of Congress from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for the next eight years.