We all think we know all about Rosa Parks because she is indeed an American icon, and the face of the 20th century civil rights struggle.
Her story is famous. One day in 1955, the Alabama native was bone tired and refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus. After being jailed for this ridiculous offense, she was an integral part of the Montgomery bus boycott with Dr. Martin Luther King, which eventually desegregated city buses.
However, the part of the story that is less known is that Parks was chosen for this task because she fit the bill of a “respectable” protester. She was actually a trained activist and secretary for the local NAACP. She also was fired from her job after she took that action and she and her husband also received death threats on the regular. Parks actually spent most of her life in Detroit, where she moved in 1957.
In 2015 the Library of Congress released a trove of Rosa Parks’ personal documents, and in 2016, these artifacts were put online.
NPR did a small feature recently and isolated a very interesting part of these documents—Parks’ recipes, which give a look at her beautiful penmanship as well as a more personal side of her.
The recipes, mostly written on the back of envelopes and other random papers, include unique takes on American staples such as chicken and dumplings, cornbread griddle cakes, cabbage and bacon, pancakes and lemonade.
How can you put a twist on lemonade you say?
Well, for Parks, the key was to simmer the lemons in water for 30 minutes which isolated the essence of lemon in the refreshing summer drink. The bad part was that you had to wait for it.
“She would be in that kitchen, and you were not invited in,” recalls her niece Sheila McCauley Keys. “You would just hear pots and pans. But eventually, when it came out, it was the best thing ever.”
McCauley Keys has released a book of her “Auntie Rosa’s” recipes, called Our Auntie Rosa: The Family of Rosa Parks Remembers Her Life and Lessons.
Parks also had a distinctive taste on pancakes. In her “Featherlite Pancakes” Parks used a quintessentially Southern (and African) ingredient—peanut butter!
“She loved peanut butter,” said niece Deborah Ann Ross.