Posted on July 29, 2011

‘I Was Ready to Die but Give My Consent, Never’: Harrowing Essay by Rosa Parks Reveals How She Was Nearly Raped

Lee Moran, Daily Mail (London), July 29, 2011

An essay written by the ‘mother of the civil rights movement’ saying how she was nearly raped while working for a white neighbour is set to be auctioned.

Rosa Parks penned the harrowing six-page memoir about her experience as a housekeeper many years after the 1931 incident.

It is among thousands of her personal items up for sale that are predicted to fetch at least $8 million.

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

The essay, written in her own hand, is to be sold by New York auction house Guernsey’s.

Civil rights historian Danielle McGuire said she had never before heard of the attempted rape of Parks and called the find ‘astounding’.

And she believes it could help explain what triggered Parks’ lifelong campaign against the ritualistic rape of black women by white men.

She said: ‘I thought it was because of the stories that she had heard. But this gives a much more personal context to that.’

Black, middle-aged seamstress Parks is credited with inspiring the civil rights movement after refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955.

It led to the Supreme Court outlawing segregation on buses.

She received the nation’s two highest honours in her lifetime, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

She died, aged 92, in 2005–leaving a treasure trove of personal correspondence, papers relating to her work for the Montgomery branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and tributes from presidents and world leaders.

Manhattan’s Guernsey’s Auctioneers has been chosen by a Michigan court to find an institution to buy and preserve the complete archive which contains more than 8,000 items.

Guernsey’s president Arlan Ettinger said Parks’ personal papers revealed a woman who spent a lifetime fighting for racial equality and against the sexual violence of black women.

He said: ‘It is wonderful and breathtaking. It will be up to the institution that ends up with it to make this material known to the world.’

Proceeds from the sale will go to resolve a dispute over her estate, divided between her relatives and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development that she created in 1987.

Guernsey’s, known for its sale of iconic and celebrity collections, took an inventory of Parks’ homes in Detroit soon after she died and is looking for an institution to buy her archive, which Ettinger described as the most complete he’s ever seen.

The only thing missing, he quipped, was the bus itself, which is in fact called The Henry Ford and resides in a museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

He said that Guernsey’s had talked to 20 museums, libraries, university and churches about buying the archive, valued between $8 million to $10 million, over the past three years.

But he added: ‘There hasn’t been a group that didn’t desperately want it but had to face the reality whether they could afford it.’

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research library of the New York Public Library, was among those interested.

Its new director, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, said the centre had very little material on Parks and would love to own some of her papers.

But it proved impossible because the archive is being sold as a single collection.

Muhammad said: ‘She is a witness to the beginning and the maturation of the civil rights movement.

‘She walked as close to Martin Luther King Jr as you can get at the beginning of the movement.’

[Editor’s Note: See Jared Taylor’s account of the life of Rosa Parks here.]