Crowdsourcing at the Library of Congress: The Latest

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Celebrating Rosa Parks

"I felt I was lynched many times in mind and spirit. I grew up in a world of white power . . .”

These words rock us with their hard truth. They were written by Rosa Parks sometime after her arrest in 1955 for defying a Montgomery, Alabama, bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white passenger. They can be found among her autobiographical writings in the Rosa Parks Papers. Today, February 4th, Parks' birthday, we're launching these and other materials from her collection as "Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words". The pages include letters to and from friends and family, records about her activism and lifelong fight for equal rights, programs from events that featured or honored her, and a small number of miscellaneous items, including her "Featherlite Pancake Recipe" with a secret ingredient.

We hope transcribing Rosa Parks’s writings, notes, and statements will bring you insight into her upbringing and family, her arrest and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the pernicious impact of racism and Jim Crow segregation. Parks was a powerful writer whose strong words and keen insights hit home. Many of these writings and notes are in draft form. She wrote on scraps of paper, often using the backs of incoming letters, event and sermon programs, and envelopes. The purpose of these writings isn’t always clear. Many were notes for speeches. Some may have be been intended for memoirs long before she wrote Rosa Parks: My Story (1992). Parks may have used writing as a way to process her arrest, the boycott, and their aftermath. Most of her writings are undated, although dates can be inferred from the dated letters and programs on which she wrote and from stationery letterhead. Many are featured in the Library's current exhibition (also titled Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words), which inspired this campaign.

Your transcriptions may lead to new discoveries about when and why some of these notes and drafts were written. One of the great archival myths is that archivists have time to read every word, untie every knot, and solve every mystery in a collection. They don’t, and unresolved mysteries abound. These documents have only been available for a large public audience for a few years, and to date they have not been transcribed and made word-searchable online, which is what you're doing when you take part in any By the People Campaign. What will you discover? 


Alan Lomax Challenge Success

Congratulations on completing another successful challenge! Together we moved the number of completed pages in the Alan Lomax Campaign from 1,732 to over 3,000 to celebrate Alan Lomax's 105th birthday. To thank volunteers, our partners at the Association for Cultural Equity, and the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress made a special playlist of Lomax recordings inspired by the campaign that you can access via Spotify. Songs include "Worried Now, Won't be Worried Long," by Sidney Carter, "The Moonshiner," by Daw Henson and "Sink 'Em Low," by Bessie Jones. We hope you'll listen as you keep reviewing Alan Lomax pages! The more we review, the more we can publish on, and the sooner we'll bring out new Lomax materials for you to transcribe. 


Thank you all for your contributions, and for making the important documents of American life more accessible to people everywhere.

-Victoria and the By the People Team