Rosa Parks is known as a pioneer of the civil rights movement, a heroine for her courage of convictions. Yet, few knew the other side of her life – one spent as a devoted mother figure to her nieces and nephews. One such niece, Sheila McCauley Keys, was at the Library last week to remember her Auntie Rosa, who is also the subject of Keys’ new book “Our Auntie Rosa: The Family of Rosa Parks Remembers Her Life and Lessons.” Many of the family members were also on hand for the book talk.
Following her act of bravery on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Rosa Parks and her husband moved to Detroit in 1957, where Parks largely disappeared from public view. There, Parks reconnected with her only sibling, Sylvester McCauley, and her nieces and nephews. They were her only family.
“Aunt Rosa helped raise all of us, that’s just what family did,” Keys said.
When Parks passed away in 2005, the family largely mourned in public, unable to retreat from the public eye. Putting the book together was finally a way for them to do so by sharing the memories and lessons learned of the civil rights activist.
“She was kind, loving and tolerant,” said Keys. “She taught us that we were responsible for our own actions.”
She also instilled in her family the maxim of treating others as they would like to be treated, also known as the “Golden Rule.”
Keys said that if her aunt were here today, Parks would appreciate being remembered and loved. However, she hoped that people would put that appreciation into perspective by doing the right thing, a creed that Parks lived by.
The Rosa Parks Collection is on loan to the Library from the Buffett Foundation for 10 years. Several items from the Rosa Parks collection are included in the Library’s ongoing major exhibition “The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom,” which is open through Jan. 2, 2016. Later this year, selected collection items will be accessible online.
Photos by Shawn Miller