New Rosa Parks Essay Reveals Harrowing Near-Rape

The civil rights icon had a personal connection to her campaign against sexual violence

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Rosa Parks continues to surprise, even in death. The iconic figure of the U.S. civil rights movement famously refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. But aside from that singular act, she was a lifelong crusader for civil rights, fighting in particular against sexual violence toward black women. Now, a cache of Parks's personal documents made public for auction in Manhattan has revealed a six-page account of the time a white neighbor, for whom she worked as a housekeeper, nearly raped her in 1931. The Associated Press ran this passage:

Of her own experience, Parks wrote, "He offered me a drink of whiskey, which I promptly and vehemently refused. . He moved nearer to me and put his hand on my waist. I was very frightened by now."

"He liked me. .. he didn't want me to be lonely and would I be sweet to him. He had money to give me for accepting his attentions," she wrote.

"I was ready to die but give my consent never. Never, never."

Parks, whose work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People stretches back at least as far as 1931, died in 2005 after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, among other honors. The items up for auction, according to the AP, include "the trove of personal correspondence, papers relating to her work for the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, tributes from presidents and world leaders, school books, family bibles, clothing, furniture and more — about 8,000 items in all."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.