Library of Congress

The Library of Congress announced Thursday that it had digitized and made available to the public the entirety of its collection of documents and photographs related to civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

“It’s a great privilege to open the Rosa Parks Collection and help people worldwide discover more about her active life and her deep commitment to civil rights,” said David Mao, acting librarian of Congress.


The Washington Post reports there are about 10,000 items in the collection, a quarter of which are photos. Here are some (non-comprehensive) highlights.

There are a lot of letters about the Montgomery Bus Boycott that Parks kicked off, but this one is incredibly powerful in its brevity.

I had been pushed around all my life and felt this moment that I couldn’t take it any more. When I asked the policeman why we had to be pushed around? He said he did not know. “The last is the law. You are under arrest.” I did not resist.

Parks' story is well known though so the real finds come from photos and documents that just show her living a normal life. In fact, the bulk of the material comes from after the boycott that made her such an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

Library of Congress

There are a lot of pictures of Rosa's husband, Raymond—himself involved in the civil rights movement—who steadfastly supported his wife during the boycott and for years afterward, who by all accounts never wavered, even when receiving death threats.

What's clear though from looking through the photos, which reach into the early 2000s, shortly before Parks' death in 2005, is just how many people's lives she touched. To quote John Conyers, a Michigan Congressmen Parks worked for following the boycott, “there are very few people who can say their actions and conduct changed the face of the nation, and Rosa Parks is one of those individuals.”

This is only a small sampling. There is a preponderance of material in the collection, letters from presidents as well as tax returns and insurance forms, and it's worth some time to just click around. As a bonus, the Library of Congress made a documentary about the process that went into putting the collection together.

David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: