WASHINGTON (CBS) – Rosa Parks is known as the mother of the Civil Rights movement, but she is still an enigma in many ways. A new collection of personal items at the Library of Congress may change that, providing crucial dimension and complexity to this civil rights icon.
“I think what has happened to Rosa Parks is something very similar to what happened to Dr. King,” said Maricia Battle, curator of photography for the new collection. “He was frozen in the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. For Rosa Parks, she was frozen for being the woman who didn’t give up her seat.”
The new collection of 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs – many of which have never been seen by the public – opens to researchers this week to coincide with what would have been Parks’ 102nd birthday.
In one letter, Parks describes her historic refusal to forfeit her seat on that Montgomery bus on December 1, 1955: “I had been pushed around all my life and felt at this moment that I couldn’t take it anymore,” she writes. “When I asked the policeman why we had to be pushed around? He said he didn’t know. ‘The law is the law. You are under arrest.’ I didn’t resist.”