Parks wrote on anything she could get her hands on. The backs of church pamphlets and NAACP flyers are filled with her thoughts and observations.
There are detailed notes on how African-American citizens should comport themselves during the bus boycott following her arrest that lasted 382 days and about the organization that led it, the Montgomery Improvement Association, headed by a young pastor named the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Elsewhere, she laments about life under the oppressive Jim Crow laws and asks what is wrong with the world when her jailer refuses her a drink of water.
She also vividly recalls an incident when she was 10 years old involving a white boy who threatened to hit her. Demonstrating some of the determination she exhibited on the bus decades later, Parks writes "I picked up a small piece of brick and drew back to strike him if he should hit me. I was angry. He went his way without further comment."
Parks' memoirs include one with author Jim Haskins and another with one of her attorneys in the early 1990s, but by then said McGuire, "her story was pretty much well-rehearsed, and limited to her time in Montgomery and the bus incident."
"Her story had become mythic and iconic ... I can't imagine what that felt like for her to have a whole history of activism and political work erased and turned almost into a cartoon character," said McGuire.
Guernsey's has talked to about 20 museums, libraries, university and churches about buying the archive over the past three years.
"There hasn't been a group that didn't desperately want it but had to face the reality whether they could afford it," Ettinger said, adding that he was currently in discussions with three separate entities — an institution and two individuals who could buy the archive with the intention of donating it to a museum or other cultural institution.
He declined to give an exact figure but said $8 million to $10 million was in the "ballpark."
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research library of the New York Public Library, was among the interested institutions.
Its new director, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, said the center has very little material on Parks and would love to own some of her papers but because the archive is being sold as a single collection, it took the Schomburg out of the running.
"She is a witness to the beginning and the maturation of the civil rights movement. . She walked as close to Martin Luther King Jr., as you can get at the beginning of the movement," Muhammad said.
McGuire wondered why Parks omitted the attempted rape incident from her memoirs but included the story about the little boy who threatened her.
"It shows some kind of conscious effort in shaping her own legacy but also, I think, speaks to the issue of respectability. She doesn't necessarily feel comfortable telling the world about what happened," she said. "But she's contemplating telling people about it because she's written it down."
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