NEW YORK (AP) - A first-person essay written by Rosa Parks presents a detailed and harrowing account of a young black housekeeper who is nearly raped by a white neighbor.
Looking like a remembrance from Parks‘ own life, an expert called it an exciting find that might help explain her lifelong advocacy. But on Friday an institute created by Parks disputed that, saying it was hers but a work of fiction.
The six-page document is among thousands of the civil rights activists’ personal items currently residing in the Manhattan warehouse and cramped offices of Guernsey’s Auctioneers, which has been selected by a Michigan court to find an institution to buy and preserve the complete archive.
The Associated Press was provided with some samples of the documents in the archive, including portions of the essay. Archivists who reviewed the documents for Guernsey’s provided descriptions of their contents and characterized the encounter as a “near-rape.”
Steven G. Cohen, a lawyer for the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, said people who knew Parks well were aware that she liked to write fictional essays for herself. Parks‘ friend of 45 years, Elaine Steele, never heard Parks speak of the encounter and was not aware of the document, Cohen said.
It helps explain what triggered Parks‘ lifelong campaign against the ritualistic rape of black women by white men, said McGuire, whose book “At the Dark End of the Street” examines how economic intimidation and sexual violence were used to derail the freedom movement and how it went unpunished during the Jim Crow era.
“I thought it was because of the stories that she had heard. But this gives a much more personal context to that,” said McGuire, an assistant professor of history at Wayne State University in Detroit. Her book recounts Parks‘ role in investigating for the NAACP the case of Recy Taylor, a young sharecropper raped by a group of white men in 1944.
“It would be nice to see evidence of that. She never talks about that in any of her work out there,” said McGuire. “It would be more likely that the protectors of her legacy are trying to protect her respectability.”
Parks writes in the essay: “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,” she wrote.
“I was ready to die but give my consent never. Never, never.”
Most people know the story of Parks, a black, middle-aged seamstress who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955.View Entire Story
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