The Library’s big headline for February was the opening of the Rosa Park Collection to researchers on Feb. 4, which was also the birthday of the civil-rights icon.
“A cache of Parks’s papers set to be unveiled Tuesday at the Library of Congress portrays a battle-tested activist who had been steeped in the struggle against white violence since childhood,” wrote Michael E. Ruane of The Washington Post. “The trove, parts of which were unknown to historians, also shows Parks as a woman devoted to her family, especially to her mother and husband, Raymond, for whom she kept her hair in long braids even after he died.
“Her personal papers and keepsakes contain a much fuller story of the woman behind the movement,” wrote Laura Clark for smithsonian.com.
“But amid all the witness-to-history artifacts — a note after she’s had dinner with future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for instance, or her ID card for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, or a copy of a 1999 letter she sent to Pope John Paul II after meeting him — is the ordinary, the everyday, the mundane,” wrote Todd Spangler for the Detroit Free Press. “It is made all the more remarkable for it being hers.”
Speaking with collection curator Adrienne Cannon was the New York Times.
“I think that she felt, perhaps, limited in a way by the iconic image of Rosa Parks as the woman who refused to give up her seat in the bus,” said Cannon. “This significance that she had in the public sphere did not fully describe who she was, and I think that she perhaps wanted us to know her true self.”
WUSA (local CBS) reporter Lesli Foster spoke with Senior Archivist Specialist Margaret McAleer.
“”We always think of her as the quiet seamstress. But in her writings, we see how very courageous she was,” said McAleer.
CBS News online also ran a story, interviewing Maricia Battle, curator of photography for the new collection.
“‘Writing things down was a way of releasing some of that pressure,’ Battle said, noting Parks’ stress from her arrest, the subsequent unfolding of the Montgomery bus boycott, and losing her job as an assistant tailor at the Montgomery Fair department store. Parks held on to much of this writing – not to mention postcards, invitations, poll tax receipts, and handwritten recipes – throughout her life.”
A selection of items from the collection are on display at the Library through March 31.
Also on display this month is the original manuscript of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address.
The Washington Post’s Michael Ruane got a sneak peak at the document in February in advance of the special exhibit.
“Experts at the library showed the two versions of the speech, explained Lincoln’s quirky composition style and spoke about the damage the documents have incurred over 150 years,” he reported. “Even in a library conservation lab, the experts were careful to limit the exposure to light, covering the documents with large sheets of paper before and after discussing them.”
In addition to receiving the Rosa Park’s collection, the Library also received the papers of American composer Marvin Hamlisch.