Posted on August 1, 2011

Rosa Parks Wrote a Rape Essay. Is It Truth or Fiction?

Los Angeles Times, July 29, 2011

Discovered among Rosa Parks’ estate, which is currently at a New York auction house, is a six-page, handwritten essay in which a white man nearly rapes a black housekeeper. Because the essay is in the first person, some have concluded that Rosa Parks herself faced the rape attempt; others who knew her say that Parks often wrote fiction, and that this is one of her stories.

“This six-page essay we believe is a work of fiction,” Steven G. Cohen, a lawyer for the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, told the Associated Press. “We believe that Mrs. Parks meant for the story to be private. It never should have been part of the memorabilia collection.”


Many have taken the first-person story to be nonfiction. “Rosa Parks’ Archived Writing Reveals Attempted Rape,” writes Time Magazine. “Rosa Parks, civil rights heroine’s essay reveals rape attempt by white neighbor,” says the NY Daily News. “Rosa Parks details attempted rape as teenager,” declares an Associated Press video posted at the Washington Post.

As the Associated Press notes, Parks did not recount the incident in either of her autobiographies.

{snip} If it is fiction, we should probably call it a “story,” not an “essay.” But we may never know how to read these six pages. Parks died in 2005 at the age of 92.