"I was ready to die but give my consent never. Never, never." Those were the words Rosa Parks used in a never-published, never-before-seen essay on an encounter that took place when she was 18 and working as a housekeeper for a white neighbor.
The essay was found in her archive, which includes 8,000 items of correspondence, books, and papers that are being prepared for sale. Parks died in 2005 at the age of 92.
The AP, which first reported on the discovery, offers few details from the essay, but did excerpt this portion:
"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."
Historian Danielle McGuire, author of the important history of black women fighting sexual violence in the civil rights era, At The Dark End Of The Street, told the AP that this was a major discovery of which she'd known nothing. McGuire's book challenges the portrayal of Parks as a previously passive citizen randomly moved to protest, chronicling her history of investigating white-on-black sexual violence and advocating on behalf of victims — including trying to bring to justice the white men who gang-raped Recy Taylor. But this indicates an even earlier formative experience, which McGuire speculated Parks had considered telling but ultimately decided not to make public because of the politics of respectability and the shame surrounding sexual assault.
Efforts are underway to sell the collection either to a cultural or historical institution or to a person who could then donate it to one. The pricetag is estimated to be $8 to $10 million.