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The Rosa Parks Papers: A Powerful New Resource for Teachers and Students

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Rosa Parks, 1956
Rosa Parks, 1956

Students and teachers have a new opportunity to explore the life of a civil rights legend.

Rosa Parks was one of the most renowned figures of the twentieth century and a central figure of the African American civil rights movement. Her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white passenger in 1955 triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott and changed the course of civil rights in the United States.

Starting today, the Library has made the Rosa Parks Papers available on its Web site. This collection contains thousands of unique artifacts that shed light on this courageous fighter for social justice. The letters, diaries, notes, photographs, and other documents in this collection, which is on loan to the Library for ten years from the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, provide invaluable insights into her life and thoughts.

Analyzing documents from the Rosa Parks Papers, along with other primary sources from the Library’s collections, offers students an opportunity to look more deeply into the Jim Crow policies and segregationist culture that the civil rights movement opposed. It also provides a chance to become more familiar with Parks’ own activist work, as well as to explore the experiences and perspectives of her contemporaries in the movement.

To support teachers’ and students’ use of the Rosa Parks Papers, we’ve created a primary source gallery that showcases highlights from the papers, along with teaching ideas and PDF versions of many of the items. To learn more about the story of these remarkable artifacts, and about their journey to the Library, watch this Library of Congress video.

Last summer, many of the educators who participated in the Library’s special Summer Teacher Institute on the civil rights movement explored strategies for using the Rosa Parks Papers with their students and with colleagues. A few of them shared their insights with us.

The Rosa Parks primary source gallery sheds light on the feelings, thoughts, struggles and strong character that defined Rosa Parks. Ultimately, the reader gets to know the real Rosa Parks, beyond an event that has been cemented into American historical consciousness, and her continued role in the struggle for civil rights.

— Jason O’Connor, high school social sciences teacher

The Rosa Parks collection of primary sources provides teachers and students the opportunity to examine Rosa Parks as a person growing up in an era where prejudice and discrimination abounded. Rosa Parks’ commitment to educating young people in how to facilitate change through non-violence is an example relevant in students’ lives today.

— Theresa M. McCormick, Auburn University

I felt privileged to work with the Rosa Parks primary source materials. It seemed as if I took a step back into time because I received an invitation to check in on Mrs. Rosa Parks. Just having the opportunity to read her very own handwriting and “hear” her words through her own cursive seemed surreal.

— Rachel Walden Cranston, middle school English teacher

We look forward to plumbing the depths of this one-of-a-kind collection, and we hope you’ll share what you discover during your own explorations.

Comments (2)

  1. This is a dream come true. I am a history interpreter, and I have a presented first person characterization for many years. It is profoundly sad how few people know the true story of this phenomenal woman, or the facts about one of the most significant events in American history – the Montgomery Bus Boycott. More importantly, the myths about her being a tired old woman whose feet hurt who’d done nothing before or since will be dispelled, along with the myth that she and Dr. King single handedly started the Civil Rights Movement. Now that you are making it available to the public, people will have the chance to discover the real “Sister Rosa.” Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. I never knew about this wonderful woman until now….Really educative

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