Rosa Parks, the noted civil rights icon, died in Detroit in 2005. Since then, her estate has been in probate, working its way through the Wayne County court system. And in 2006, Joanne Grant, an employee of Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers was rummaging through her house in search of noteworthy items. After a long day of searching without having found much of note, she spotted a box in the corner of her house: jackpot.
It contained a treasure trove of items pertaining to Parks’ struggle for civil rights in Alabama in the 1950s, including personal correspondence from the time and her 1991 golden Congressional Medal of Freedom. The items are going up for sale soon, expected to net anywhere from $8 to $10 million, with the hope that they’ll end up in either an educational institution or a museum.
It’s stories like this that make me take heart and illustrate the near misses with which history provides us. Had Grant not found that box, it’s likely that the items would have escaped attention, and been permanently lost to history. But, fortunately for us and the legacy of Parks, they were not. I hope, sincerely, that they’ll end up back in Michigan, preferably somewhere like the Henry Ford museum complex in Dearborn.
And, again, thank you Rosa Parks for taking that courageous stand that day on the bus in Montgomery in 1955. Perhaps without knowing it, she changed the course of history in staking out her small and, simultaneously, massive, stand on human rights. Many, many thanks Mrs. Parks. Your legacy lives on, not just through memorabilia, but mainly, through your actions.