In an audio account, Clifford Durr -- the lawyer who represented Rosa Parks following her famous refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus -- retells his experience bailing Parks out of jail.
Durr said Parks told him the bus she was riding was in a predominantly black neighborhood and that white people rarely rode the bus. She said her arthritis was bothering her and she was tired from her day's work.
"She said, 'I don't know what happened to me' -- said, 'it had been stuffy in the shop where I had been working all day ... and I just decided -- something got into me -- and I said, "I've had it. I'm not going to do it," ' " Durr said in the recording.
This was one of the rare audio accounts from the Jack Rabin Collection on Alabama Civil Rights and Southern Activists presented yesterday at Foster Auditorium in Paterno Library. Barry Kernfeld, who works in the special collections library in the Paterno Library, presented snippets of the singular collection in a slide show at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. yesterday as an event for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Rabin taught in Montgomery, Ala., and over the course of 30 years, collected primary source photos, audio, video reels and news clips of activists and civil rights leaders particularly concerning the Selma-to-Montgomery March in 1965.
Rabin later taught public administration at Penn State Harrisburg and donated the materials to both Penn State Harrisburg and the special collections library at University Park. A team of eight took three years to transcribe audio and video reels retrieved from Montgomery police surveillance, processed news clippings and 355 photographs surrounding the events, Kernfeld said.
The collection contains previously unreleased speeches and original audio from Stokely Carmichael, a member of the Black Panther Party; Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who, along with Martin Luther King Jr., organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott; and King himself.
Kernfeld played clips of a speech Rev. Abernathy gave: "Then, in seventeen-hundred and seventy-six, this country of ours wrote us a check. Through the Declaration of Independence, they said, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men' -- not some men, but all men -- 'all men were created equal...' They gave us our check, and as black men, as negro men and women, we sought to cash that check, and that check bounced, marked 'insufficient funds.' "
Bill Joyce, the Huck Chair of the special collections library, said four departments of the library were involved in processing and digitizing the materials to make them available to everyone.
"It's a wonderful resource," he said. "The state of Alabama does not have a lot of its own documentation of the Civil Rights Movement that it created."
Emilie Smith, a professor of human development and family studies, attended the presentation with her children. She said she was glad her children could hear about this part of history and called it "history from people who were history makers."
"[I was surprised] that the Alabama Police Department unintentionally made a historical record for us," she said. "So if I ever had anything to say to them, I'd say, 'thank you.' "