Rosa Parks Collection Documents Reveal the Activist's Financial Struggle

The Library of Congress received the historical documents of Rosa Parks on loan after a lengthy legal battle that kept the collection hidden for decades. The new archive is said to include thousands of Rosa Parks's documents, ranging from postcards from Martin Luther King Jr., to a written list of volunteer drivers for the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

In an NPR interview, senior archive specialist Meg McAleer discusses some of the most intriguing documents in the collection: Rosa’s personal writings that highlight her life with husband, Raymond Parks. One such document written by Rosa reveals Raymond’s emotional reaction to her arrest after refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus:

“He was a madman, furious. His fury was directed at himself for being a financial failure — not having provided the material comforts necessary for a well-appointed home. He was angry with the driver for causing my arrest. He mentioned so often the fact that colored people were sitting on the same seat, the same day, and all of the other days, where I was arrested for not getting up. He also was very angry with me for refusing to give up the seat, and at least not getting off the bus. So many times he said he would have gotten off the bus. He said I had a goat head”
Personal documents also reveal the larger financial and social consequences activism had on Rosa and Raymond. After Rosa’s arrest, both her and Raymond were let go from their jobs and were unable to find employment elsewhere due to their participation in the Civil Rights Movement. A 1959 tax return featured in the archive shows dire financial struggles.

McAleer is certain that public access to the Rosa Parks collection will give viewers a new perspective of the Civil Rights leader:
It really kind of lets us hear her voice in a way that I don't think we've truly heard before. ... We know her actions…we know the fact she refused to give up her seat, we know about her arrest...But this brings us into the psychological impact of that. We see her in a much more animated way — we know the events she attended, you know, who she was supporting, and so I think that this really shows her to be a very skilled, experienced civil rights worker.
Listen to the full interview below:

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or


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