As an auctioneer house sorts through Rosa Parks’ personal effects , a recently discovered essay may have shed light on a harrowing assault attempt made on the civil rights icon.
The Associated Press reports that Gurnsey Auctioneers, which was chosen by a Michigan court to manage the sale and preservation of Parks’ archives, located a six page handwritten essay written in the first person which details an attempted rape on a young Black maid by a White neighbor. A lawyer from the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, however, claims that the activist wrote fictional essays as a hobby. Steven G. Cohen also cites the fact that a close friend of Parks, Elaine Steele, had never heard of the encounter nor the story and stated “We believe that Mrs. Parks meant for the story to be private. It never should have been part of the memorabilia collection.”
At least one civil rights historian is excited at the discovery and believes that the essay was most likely a work of personal narrative. Danielle McGuire, who wrote about Parks’ involvement in investiagting the rape of a young Black sharecropper by a pack of White men, tells the AP “Rosa Parks was very likely to have encountered this kind of proposition” and that this sort of incident may have triggered the icon’s lifelong efforts to aid Black victims of sexual assault at the hand of Whites.
McGuire claims she’s never heard anything about Parks writing fictional essays and suspects that reps from her organization “are trying to protect her respectability” by dismissing the possibility that the story is true.
The essay reveals the speaker to have the same courage and resolution that Parks displayed in her famous bus arrest in 1955.
She wrote “I was ready to die but give my consent never. Never, never.”
Gurnsey president Arlan Ettinger says that the auction house has talked to over 20 museums, schools, churches and libraries about purchasing Parks’ archives, which is estimated to be selling for $8 million to $10 million; most institutions very quickly realized they could not afford the high cost. He claims that one institution and two individuals (who would donate the archive to a cultural institute) are currently in negotiations to make the purchase.