Rosa Parks: Beyond the Bus

September 2019 through September 2020, the Library of Congress will present an exhibition documenting the life and activism of Rosa Parks. The exhibition will draw extensively from the Rosa Parks Collection, a gift of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. The collection includes papers, photographs, books, printed materials, drawings by school children, clothing, and Parks’s Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal along with other honors she received. The exhibition will also draw supplemental materials from the NAACP Records, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porter Records, and the Library’s National Audio-Visual Conservation Center. A section of the exhibition will be devoted to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but the primary focus of the exhibition will be on the lesser-known facets of Rosa Parks, notably, the childhood experiences that shaped her philosophy of “Quiet Strength”; her personal relationships; her activism before and after the bus boycott; the effects of the activism on her wellbeing; the breadth of her intellect; the depth of her spirituality; and the international dimension of her fame.

Rosa Parks’s personal writings, a hallmark of the Rosa Park Collection, are key to this examination. The rich array includes autobiographical sketches, letters, notebooks, speech notes, interviews, prayers, and spiritual reflections. The exhibition will interweave her writings with photographs, other correspondence, inscribed books, financial documents, organizational records, pamphlets, drawings, ephemera, awards, and audio-visual clips. The Parks’ family Bible containing genealogy records will also be prominently displayed. Through the exhibition, the public will discover new dimensions to their conception of Rosa Parks, to a large extent, through her own words.