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Check out this incredible collection of Rosa Parks' personal writings and photos

Rosa Parks, circa 1950.
Rosa Parks, circa 1950.
Thomas/ Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

"I had been pushed around for all my life and felt at this moment that I couldn't take it any more."

That's Rosa Parks, in her own words (and her own handwriting), describing what happened when she famously refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger on December 1, 1955 — an event that spurred the Montgomery bus boycott.

To mark the late civil rights icon's February 4 birthday, the Library of Congress opened up a collection of her letters, photographs, and notes for speeches. This document, written around 1956, is a highlight.

In it, Parks explains her personal act of resistance, placing it in the context of the broader fight against segregation and what she calls the "horrible restrictions of the Jim Crow laws."

(Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development)

"Time begins the healing process of wounds cut deeply by oppression," she says.

(Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development)

It's not all hopeful, though. Here, Parks writes, "I want to feel the nearness of something secure. It is such a lonely lost feeling and I am cut off from life. I am nothing. I belong nowhere and to no one."

(Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development)

Reflecting on the depth of the harm caused by life in the Jim Crow South, she writes that "little children are so conditioned early to learn their place in this segregated pattern as they take their first toddling steps and are weaned from their mother's breast."

(Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development)

Thee collection also includes this poll tax receipt, dated February 1, 1957. These fees, often out of reach for poor people, were designed to keep African-Americans from voting. According to the Library of Congress, Parks secured the right to vote in the 1940s after at least two failed attempts to register.

"Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

The collection  also has some materials unrelated to civil rights, that help paint a full picture of Parks' life  — like this: her recipe for "Featherlite" pancakes.

(Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.)

There's a lot more where these documents came from, including photos of Parks, like these.

Parks and Stokely Carmichael, 1983 (UPI/Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development)

Parks and Shirley Chisholm, circa 1968 (Library of Congress, Courtesy of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development)

The collection contains approximately 7,500 manuscripts and 2,500 photographs, which are available to researchers at the Library of Congress starting today.  Later this year, selected items will be available online.

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