I only met Rosa Parks once, back in 1996 when I accompanied my friend Tim Tyson to Robert Williams’ funeral in Monroe, N.C.
At the request of the Williams family, Tim and Ms. Parks both gave moving eulogies to the great civil rights leader who had a poet’s soul and stood up to the Ku Klux Klan with guns.
After the funeral, we had dinner with Ms. Parks and the Williams family.
That was a long time ago, and Ms. Parks died in 2005.
I am thinking about that day today because I’m doing research at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, and in a way I got to see Rosa Parks again.
Across the street, in the older part of the library, I took a break this afternoon and visited a wonderful new exhibit called “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words.”
The exhibit draws on interviews, recordings and writings of Ms. Parks in which she tells her life story.
In the exhibit, she recalls her childhood on a farm in Alabama.
And she recounts some of the chapters in her lifelong commitment to civil rights activism and human rights causes.
As part of the exhibit, Ms. Parks of course talks about the famous moment in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955, when she refused to move from her seat on a city bus and sparked the famous bus boycott.
But she also talks about what most people don’t know, which is how she was a civil rights and women’s rights activist for more than a decade before 1955– and how she remained deeply committed to social justice and human rights activism for almost half a century after 1955.
Like so many people, I sometimes grow weary and discouraged these days, when I think about the state of the world.
But today, when I needed a lift, I walked across the street and spent a little time with Rosa Parks.
Coming in from the winter cold and the tumult of the political debates on Capitol Hill, just a block away, it felt like a baptism.
At I wandered through the exhibit, her words renewed my spirits, lifted my hopes and reminded me of so much of what is best in America.
So I thought I’d share a few of those words with you here.
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You can learn more about the Library of Congress’s exhibit, “Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words,” at the exhibit’s website here, as well as find informative webcasts, on-line exhibits, classroom resources and public programs related to the exhibit.