Rosa Parks essay describes rape attempt

But institute says work is fictional

By Ula Ilnytzky
Associated Press / July 30, 2011

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NEW YORK - A first-person essay written by Rosa Parks presents a detailed and harrowing account of a young black housekeeper who was nearly raped by a white neighbor.

Looking like a remembrance from Parks’s life, an expert called it an exciting find that might help explain her lifelong advocacy. But yesterday, an institute created by Parks disputed that, saying it was hers but a work of fiction.

The six-page document is among thousands of the civil rights activist’s personal items in the Manhattan warehouse and cramped offices of Guernsey’s Auctioneers, which has been selected by a Michigan court to find an institution to buy and preserve the archive.

The Associated Press was provided with some samples of the documents in the archive, including portions of the essay. Archivists who reviewed the documents for Guernsey’s provided descriptions of their contents and characterized the encounter as a “near-rape.’’

Steven G. Cohen, a lawyer for the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit, said people who knew Parks well were aware she liked to write fictional essays. Parks’s friend of 45 years, Elaine Steele, never heard Parks speak of the encounter and was not aware of the document, Cohen said.

“This six-page essay we believe is a work of fiction,’’ said Cohen. “We believe that Mrs. Parks meant for the story to be private.’’ top stories on Twitter

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