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Exhibition Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words

  • Opening December 5, 2019
  • South Gallery, Second Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building
Explore the Exhibit

Rosa Parks (1913–2005) is best known for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a crowded bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955. Her arrest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement that ultimately led to the dismantling of Jim Crow segregation. Rosa Parks became an icon of the movement, celebrated for this single courageous act of civil disobedience, but she is often characterized by misconceptions. Contrary to popular belief, Parks was not a demure seamstress who chose not to stand because she was physically tired. Her calm demeanor hid a militant spirit forged over decades.

The real Rosa Parks was a seasoned activist who organized to free the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s and helped operate the offices of the NAACP and Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Montgomery during the 1940s and 1950s. She was punished for the bus incident with death threats, unemployment, and dire poverty, yet was sustained through years of hardship by her strong Christian faith. Parks remained committed to the struggle for social justice and human rights until her death, inspiring millions of people around the world.

Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words showcases rarely seen materials that offer an intimate view of Rosa Parks and documents her life and activism—creating a rich opportunity for viewers to discover new dimensions to their understanding of this seminal figure. The materials are drawn extensively from the Rosa Parks Collection, a gift to the Library of Congress from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

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