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Rosa L. Parks Papers

Identifier: UP000775

Scope and Content

Her papers reflect mainly her years in Detroit and her association with numerous church, community, and civil rights organizations.

Series Description: Series I, Correspondence and Papers, 1954-1976: Awards, correspondence, invitations, programs, a manuscript fragment and some clippings and other items containing biographical information about Mrs. Parks

Series II, Organizations and Activities, 1955-1976: An alphabetical series of materials relating to organizations with which Mrs. Parks has been associated, activities in which she participated or has been interested and people with whose activities or careers she has been concerned

Series III: Clippings and Newspapers/Newsletters, 1955-1976: Clippings, primarily from the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, and the Michigan Chronicle. Newspapers and newsletters include issues of community and religious organizations, and from Alabama.


  • 1955 - 1976

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.


Rosa Parks was born to James and Leona MacCauley on February 4, 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her parents, a builder and a teacher who worked as a seamstress, were separated by the time she was seven years old. During her childhood, she and her younger brother Sylvester often worked with their grandparents, former slaves, Sylvester and Rose Edwards, as pickers on a nearby farm. At age eleven she moved to Montgomery to live with an aunt and attend the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls. She dropped out of high school when her mother became ill, and worked at various jobs. She married Raymond Parks in 1932.

After her marriage, Mrs. Parks finished high school, and also attended classes at Alabama State University. From 1943 to 1955 she was the secretary of the Montgomery NAACP, and worked with E. D. Nixon to encourage blacks to register and vote. In 1948 she served as state secretary of the Alabama NAACP.

It was in December 1955, when Mrs. Parks was working as a seamstress in a local department store, that the well-known bus confrontation occurred. She was riding home after work on December 1st, when she and three other blacks were asked to rise and move to the back of the bus to give their places to a white rider. Mrs. Parks refused to move, and was subsequently arrested. Young Martin Luther King, Jr., then a new minister at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, led the year-long bus boycott which followed. It ended on December 21, 1956, when a Supreme Court decision ruling bus segregation unconstitutional became effective. As a result of this incident, Mrs. Parks is often called the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

Because of stress and illness, Rosa Parks and her mother and husband moved to Detroit in 1957. She again worked as a seamstress until joining the staff of newly-elected Congressman John Conyers in 1965. In addition to her work for Conyers, Mrs. Parks has dedicated herself to numerous church, community and civil rights activities. She was recognized for her contributions when she was made an honorary Doctor of Humanities by Shaw College in 1971, and again in 1975, when she received a similar degree from Wayne State University. In 1976, 12th Street in Detroit was renamed "Rosa L. Parks Boulevard." The Southern Christian Leadership Conference annually gives a Rosa Parks Freedom Award. In January, 1980, Mrs. Parks was the recipient of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize. Mrs. Parks resided in Detroit and served as a member of Congressman Conyers' staff for many years. She passed away on October 24, 2005.


2 Linear Feet (2 MB, 2 OS)


Rosa Parks, often referred to as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, is most famous for her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white rider in segregated Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955. She was secretary of her local and state NAACP and was a member of Michigan Congressman John Conyers staff after her family moved to Detroit. Her papers reflect mainly her years in Detroit and her association with numerous church, community, and civil rights organizations.

Arrangement of the Records

Arranged in 3 series - Series 1 (Box 1), Series 2 (Boxes 2-4), and Series 3 (Boxes 5-6). Folders in series 1 and 2 are arranged alphabetically.


The papers of Rosa L. Parks were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs on July 14, 1976.


Four pamphlets relating to civil liberties or civil rights have been placed in the Archives Library.

Processing History

Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Guide to the Rosa L. Parks Papers
Processed by the Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA