Mrs Parks' Life in DC

"Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others."

~Mrs. Rosa Parks

Click on each of the images to watch a video


  • Happy Birthday Mrs. Rosa Parks!

  • OFFICIAL "Thank You Sister Rosa" Featuring Cyril Neville & Mark Bryan

  • FOX 5: Rosa Parks and The Mansion on O Street

  • Unveiling of Rosa Parks Plaque, 5/31/19

  • "Enough" Performed By Ranky Tanky

  • Congressman John Lewis' Inspiration — Mrs. Rosa Parks

  • Mrs. Rosa Parks & O Museum in The Mansion

  • Rosa Parks: Douglas Brinkley at The Library of Congress

  • Making The Music: "Mrs. Rosa Parks" Featuring Cyril Neville & Mark Bryan of Hootie and The Blowfish

  • Jesse Colin Young : For My Sisters

  • Did You Know These Things About Mrs. Rosa Parks? #HoldMyHandChallenge

  • Spreading Mrs. Rosa Parks Messages of Unity & Love #HoldMyHandChallenge #RosaParks

  • Rosa Parks: Douglas Brinkley at The Library of Congress

  • Smokey Robinson — You Are Forever

  • Mrs. Rosa Parks' History at O Museum In The Mansion, Washington, DC

  • Take a Mrs. Rosa Parks Tour

  • Aretha Franklin & Rev. Jesse Jackson - "I'll Fly Away"

  • Susan Reyburn, Author of Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words Discussing the Book at O Museum in The Mansion

Mrs. Parks’ story, legacy, and connection to Washington, D.C. is little known — and yet, critical to the work she did. From 1994 to 2004 O Museum in the Mansion was the place Mrs. Rosa Parks and Ms. Elaine Steele, Founders of The Rosa and Raymond Institute (RRPI) called their home-away-from-home as part of our Hero-in-Residence program.

Many historic moments occurred in our hallowed halls while Mrs. Parks was with us. They included, negotiations with Congress and The White House on many important issues. Among them were her participation with First Lady Hillary Clinton at President Clintons' State of the Union Address January 19, 1999, her Congressional Medal of Honor, her statue in the Halls of Congress (the first woman ever honored there), conversations with the Vatican regarding working with the Pope to combat racism and support human rights, and the discussions to form the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.


When they visited our Nation's Capitol, Mrs. Parks, Ms. Steele, Brother Willis Edwards (and their friends and staff) along with H.H. Leonards, facilitated their important work in DC to preserve and promote her legacy and lessons. For this distinction Cultural Tourism DC has designated the O Museum in the Mansion a historic 20th Century Civil Rights site — on the African American Heritage Trail.

Lady H was invited by Mrs. Parks to be a founding member of her museum, the Rosa Parks Museum which opened on December 1, 2000 in Montgomery, Alabama.

It's simple. She often said, "When you fall down, you get up."

Mrs. Parks came to stay with us, after Lady H (as Mrs. Parks fondly called H.H. Leonards), received a phone call from Brother Willis Edwards, head of the NAACP in Beverly Hills (and also the founder of the NAACP Image Awards) saying Mrs. Parks had been attacked and beaten at the age of 81 (in her home in Detroit) and needed a safe place to heal and rest.

Sister Elaine Steele, co-founder of Rosa & Raymond Parks Institute at OM              Brother Willis Edwards, who brought Mrs. Parks to The O Museum, at OM

"I remember our phone call and his words as if it was yesterday. In Brother Willis’ wonderful, soft but heart piercing low register tone, grabbing me in, he said, “Could Mrs. Parks please stay in your hotel until she heals emotionally and physically?” Emotion came through the phone. I could feel his pain. Brother Willis said one of the reasons he called me was that he had heard that we had a very strict privacy policy (which we do) and he wanted to be sure no one knew she was staying with us.

"If I can find her a free flight from Detroit, he continued, "could she stay here for just a few days, at no cost?

He said Mrs. Parks would not be here for long as she wanted to go back to Detroit when she felt better to work with the kids in her neighborhood. He said Mrs. Parks wanted to assure the children that they were the legends of tomorrow — unlike the boy that had attacked her — and how much she loved her children, as he put it. This was important to her.

He said he would bring Mrs. Parks, her best friend Elaine Steele who was co-founder with Mrs. Parks and also the Executive Director of The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development (RRPI), and Ms. Steele’s sister, Anita Peek, who also worked at RRPI. He said they would need four rooms because all three of them would then be able to tend to her.

Brother Willis said she was in very bad shape. He said he didn’t know when she would be released from the hospital, but when she was, they just needed a quiet, safe place. Sadly, I actually did not know who Mrs. Parks was. But I said yes."

Excerpt from the book "Love is All That Matters" by H.H. Leonards

Buy The Book   Take a Tour

We will fail when we fail to try.

I knew Mrs. Rosa Parks in a way that few people ever experience a truly inspirational person. She was not just a symbol or a survivor, but a person whose impact will forever be. What she accomplished she did without rancor, with humility and with a kind, loving heart.

"I must first tell you that I was neither a writer nor a historian or even someone who knew who Mrs. Parks was when I met her in early September of 1994. This was some years after she had become the symbol of simple human dignity.

My initial thought when asked to write this book was to create an illustrated volume by and for children. But, one morning as I was working on it, I had an epiphany. It wasn’t a children’s book. It was a book for everyone, designed to take Mrs. Parks’ life and bring it into the age and generation of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest (or any other social media platform you use).

Mrs. Rosa Parks called my home, The Mansion on O Street in Washington, D.C., her home for more than a decade. I was blessed by being able to share that time with Mrs. Parks — and her close friends and co-workers at The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development (RRPI).

I use the term “blessed” advisedly, being all too aware that people, myself included, toss it around so often that it has almost become cliché. But there is nothing about Mrs. Parks that invokes a cliché. She was outwardly what she was inwardly. She was the perfect example of authenticity. A very strong proud person, who chose to live a life of dignity when many times what she faced was most decidedly undignified behavior of and by others.

So, I offer you my thoughts, my experiences as her host, her traveling companion and as one of the three people (Sister Elaine Steele and Brother Willis Edwards were her other choices) that she asked to join her on the Founding Board when the Rosa Parks Museum was created in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 2000. To her, I was one of her many “daughters.” To me, she was a mentor, a spiritual companion and my beloved Mother Parks."

Excerpt from H's book "Did You Know? Things You Don’t Know (Or Remember) About Mrs. Rosa Parks"

Buy The Book    Take a Tour

Top Right: Mrs. Rosa Parks & H.H. Leonards at the O Museum in the Mansion (photo: courtesy of O Museum Collection)
Above: The Mansion on O & O Museum (Photo: courtesy of Joy Rahat).

There is a Reason Things Happen the Way They Do

On December, 1 1955 with one simple act, Mrs. Parks changed our world. A woman of few words, her actions forever — and positively — impacted the lives of people all over the globe.

"In late September of 1994, Mrs. Parks graced my door, and forever impacted my life in the sanctuary of The Mansion on O Street, right in the center of our Nation’s Capital, 2020 O Street, N.W.

For the first few years she was here, I knew her heart, but I did not know what she had accomplished. It was several years before I learned that she was famous. What is strange looking back is I now realize I am a person who simply believes in blind faith and asks no questions. For me blind faith is a good thing. It allows me to love, with no thought of gain. I could thus come to love, purely. With love, you don’t look for someone to complete you, but for someone to share your completeness.

I have to admit that when I found out who she was, I was embarrassed by my ignorance. But even then, I didn’t stop to do any research about who she was, or what she had done. I knew her soul, her heart. To make this circle of understanding complete, I didn’t think to research the friends she brought here to stay with her (or simply visit). I also never asked her any questions about her past. I simply shared time with her."

Excerpt from the book "Did You Know? Things You Don’t Know (Or Remember) About Mrs. Rosa Parks by H.H. Leonards

(L)Mrs. Parks in front of OM.  (C) Ms. Steele, Craig Burton, Mr. Edwards, Ms. Leonards at OM.  (R) Mrs. Parks & Ms. Leonards Founder at OM (photos: courtesy of OM collection) 

We Share This World

Mrs. Rosa Parks met with dignitaries, heads-of-state, and leaders, including President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Benjamin Hooks, Vernon Jordan, and Dorothy Height here. Close friends of Mrs. Parks stayed with her while she was living here, including Cicely Tyson, Mamie Till, Miles Davis, Angela Bassett, Artis Lane, Anita Peak, Executive Director of RRPI, Jane Gunter (who was on the bus behind Mrs. Parks) and her closest friend Mrs. Elaine Steele, co-founder of of The Rosa and Raymond Parks Pathways to Freedom, in Detroit, Michigan.

Mrs. Parks loved entertaining friends here. She often held formal “Gospel Brunches” on the first Sunday of every month. And almost every year on her birthday, she would hold fabulous tea parties for her friends, who would arrive from all parts of the world.

 JET Magazine, December 21, 1998

A deeply religious woman Mrs. Parks hosted formal monthly First Sunday Gospel Brunches here, where guests wore a hat and white gloves.

"One year, on a Sunday afternoon during one of Mrs. Parks’ birthday tea parties, a couple across the street at 2015 O Street called the police repeatedly about a party that “was disturbing the peace.” When the police didn’t come immediately to investigate, they added this to their complaint, “People of another color are breaking into The Mansion at 2020 O Street.” I know this because one of the policemen that showed up told me.

The police sent six cars and left them double parked in the street, several with their flashers on. When the officers entered, they found 80 of Mrs. Parks’ closest friends, mostly elderly, all wearing pill-box hats and white gloves, having tea. When everyone’s initial embarrassment passed (the policemen’s and Mrs. Parks’ and her guests’) the officers had a memorable time meeting a most gracious Mrs. Rosa Parks.

After “the incident,” I apologized for my neighbor’s behavior. Mrs. Parks turned to me and said, “Dear, this is okay. When those people go to sell their house, you need to buy it for me. That’s how you deal with racism.”

Mrs. Parks’ grace, superseded karma. In finding truth, answers come in different forms, at different times."

Excerpt from the book "Love is All That Matters" by H.H. Leonards

Buy The Book   Take a Tour

How a person’s life touches upon the edge of another’s and moves like a wheel is a small mystery.


Pope John Paul II, Mrs. Parks, Ms. Steele, H.H. Leonards. Photo: Courtesy of the Library of Congress

On January 26, 1999, Pope John Paul II made a whirlwind trip to St. Louis. Mrs. Parks, Mr. Willis Edwards and Elaine Steele were staying at The Mansion when I first heard of his visit.

I said to Brother Willis and Ms. Steele that I thought it would be great if Mrs. Parks met with him. They both went to talk with Mrs. Parks who said she thought, “That would be very nice.”

"Two days later, Mrs. Parks was invited to meet the Pope in St. Louis. She asked the three of us to attend with her. Brother Willis was the magic man. I don’t know how he managed to get a meeting with the Pope — in just two days — but he didn’t stop there. Brother Willis somehow got free flights for us all, and free hotel rooms in St. Louis. Mrs. Parks was given a complimentary large suite. I wish I remembered the name of the hotel to give it credit.

On the way to meet him, Mrs. Parks asked me to sit next to her. At the beginning of the flight, we simply held hands. Her hands were soft and warm. They felt so good. When we held hands, it was always like holding the hands of an angel. But then she was an angel.

Halfway through the flight she turned to me, still holding my hand and said, “I need your help. I want to write something to the Pope in my own handwriting and read it to him. It has to be short because I can no longer write long letters. My hands hurt too much.”

I said to her, “Mrs. Parks, I never thought of saying anything to the Pope. I just thought it was amazing that we would have the opportunity to meet him. I am awe struck. I get to be with you — and I get to meet the Pope! I even have about 30 crosses in my purse, that I hope he will bless.” In case you hadn’t guessed, I am a devout Catholic.

She looked at me for a long time. She did not laugh at me nor did she smile. She also didn’t judge me. She never judged anyone. She then looked down at our hands, holding each other, and thought for a long time and said, “Lady H, you have to understand. When God gives you the opportunity to speak to anyone to get your message out, you have to seize the moment.”

We sat in silence for some time, still holding hands."

Excerpt from the book "Love is All That Matters" by H.H. Leonards

Buy The Book    Take a Tour

Grace Supercedes Karma

Mrs. Parks passed away on the 24th of October 2005 in her Detroit apartment. Her body laid in state at the Capitol Rotunda, the first woman to have ever been given this honour. She became the first African American woman to be honored with a life-size statue in the Capitol. Lady H was a pallbearer at her mentor’s three funerals, in Montgomery Alabama, Washington D.C. and Detroit Michigan.

20th Century Civil Rights Site

We are honored to have been included on The African American Heritage Trail and designated as a 20th Century Civil Rights site by Cultural Tourism DC.

Mrs. Rosa Parks helped spark the American civil rights movement in 1955 by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus. That act made her one of the most important women in American history and earned her the nickname “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.”

In 1994 H.H. Leonards, Founder of The O Museum in The Mansion received a phone call from Brother Willis Edwards, head of the NAACP in Beverly Hills (and also the founder of the NAACP Image Awards) saying Mrs. Parks had been attacked and beaten in her home in Detroit and needed a safe place to heal and rest. Lady H (as Mrs. Parks called her) invited her and her close friends to stay for free as part of The O Museum’s Heroes-in-Residence Program.

Take a Tour

Mrs. Rosa Parks met with dignitaries, heads-of-state, and leaders, including President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Benjamin Hooks, and Dorothy Height here. Close friends of Mrs. Parks stayed with her while she was living here, including Cicely Tyson, Mamie Till, Miles Davis, Angela Bassett, Artis Lane and her closest friend Mrs. Elaine Steele, Executive Director of The Rosa and Raymond Parks Pathways to Freedom, in Detroit, Michigan. A deeply religious woman Mrs. Parks hosted formal monthly First Sunday Gospel Brunches here, where guests wore a hat and white gloves.

Mrs. Parks passed away on the 24th of October 2005 in her Detroit apartment. Her body laid in state at the Capitol Rotunda, the first woman to have ever been given this honour. She became the first African American woman to be honored with a life-size statue in the Capitol. Lady H was a pallbearer at her mentor’s three funerals, in Montgomery Alabama, Washington D.C. and Detroit Michigan.

The African American Heritage Trail identifies sites that are important in local and national history and culture -recognizing the people and places that have shaped our city. A plaque commemorating Mrs. Parks was recently installed and can be seen when you visit.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ms. Elaine Steele, Founder of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute of Self Development with Mrs. Parks, unveiled the plaque marking the historic site along the trail in April 2018.

Changing Hearts And Minds

As the home-away-from-home for Mrs. Parks, Ms. Steele, and their friends and staff when they visited our Nation's Capitol, O Museum facilitated their important work in DC to preserve and promote her legacy and lessons. For this distinction Cultural Tourism DC has designated the O Museum in the Mansion a historic 20th Century Civil Rights site — on the African American Heritage Trail.

Working Toward A Common Goal: Civic Responsibility For All   

O Museum (501c3) is focused on healing systemic racism — and disparity — by promoting human rights through compassion and understanding. We are focused on carrying on the life’s work of Mrs. Rosa Parks in youth development and civil rights education and advocacy. Volunteers from professional, technical, community, and international backgrounds are recruited and trained to share their knowledge and skills reflecting Mrs. Parks’ approach to self development.

Mrs. Rosa Parks believed deeply in civic responsibility. Her work included active participation in the community, with a focus on the common good. Thus, our programs uphold values that include justice, freedom, equality, diversity beyond color, human rights, tolerance, and self respect.

We also create customized multi-tiered self empowerment programs and training globally. We provide tools for children to better themselves -- and for companies to add depth, context -- and solutions -- to all levels of their organization. 

Bringing people together to change hearts and minds

Founded in 1980, O Museum in the Mansion’s mission is to inspire creativity, diversity, and imagination through the fusion of the arts, music, science, and sports. We empower people to dare to be different—and achieve things beyond what they know. The O Museum has been a leader in promoting equality, diversity, and civic responsibility for over 40 years and is a sanctuary — impacting over one million people from 50 states and 102 countries. Our arts and educational programs focus on bringing people together to change hearts and minds — to end systemic racism and disparity.

Below are some of the on-going programs Mrs. Parks participated in and/or inspired.

Civic Responsibility Education
Civic Responsibility Education

Mrs. Rosa Parks believed deeply in civic responsibility. Her work included active participation in the community, with a focus on the common good. Our multi-tiered education and empowerment programs uphold values that include justice, freedom, equality, diversity beyond color, human rights, tolerance, and self respect.

To help dismantle systemic racism, we provide tools for children to better themselves, for individuals to find understanding, and for companies to add depth, context, and solutions to all levels of their organization.

51 Steps to Freedom
51 Steps to Freedom

This new trail - connects prominent sites from The African American Heritage Trail to tell the story of Washington, DC's journey (since 1791) for equality and representation. When statehood is achieved, the District of Columbia will become Washington, Douglass Commonwealth (named after Frederick Douglass) and be the state with the largest percentage of African Americans in the country.

Artist-in-Residence and Heroes Program
Artist-in-Residence and Heroes Program

The O Museum provides a haven for the heart and soul (at no cost) for soldiers, service people, first responders and all those who are giving of themselves to serve others.

Mrs. Rosa Parks stayed with us on and off from 1994 to 2003 as part of our Heroes Program.

Every year for the past 40+ years we have provided over 850 free room nights a year to support these programs.

Healing Through Music and Storytelling
Healing Through Music and Storytelling

Programs that promote understanding and unity through the arts.

From gender and politics to religion and race - the world is more divided today than it has ever been. We believe music has the power to unite us - it can teach, it can heal, and it can change hearts.

Over million people have been impacted by our programs. Each year $720,000 is needed to fund this program and further our mission.

How We Do It

Lessons Of Courage And Love

My father G.A. Leonards was a simple man who changed the world in his field of civil engineering. His profession was about sound foundations — and he taught me well. When my father would visit us at The O Museum in the Mansion he would spend hours talking quietly with Mrs. Rosa Parks.

"He told me one day I would write a remarkable book about her. It has now been three books; and I know there is at least one more inside of me, ready to be written. Mrs. Rosa Parks inspired me, beyond forever. She taught me to seize the moment.

My father told me that all the important words in Webster’s Dictionary had five or less letters: love, hope, trust, faith, give. From his teachings, I discovered how important it is to keep life simple.

Above: H.H. Leonards and G.A. Leonards (my dad) Courtesy of O Museum in The Mansion

You never leave home, no matter how early it is that you leave. Lessons your parents teach you have a lifetime effect.

But sometimes, it takes another person teaching the same lesson that makes it stick even deeper in your soul.

Eventually you get to where you are going. It doesn’t matter what route you take.

Answers come in different forms, at different times. You just have to see through the fog life sometimes surrounds you with, to find your heart again.

You must have the courage to know."

Excerpt from the book "Gems of Wisdom Mrs. Rosa Parks Taught Me" by H.H. Leonards

Books by the Founder : HH Leonards

Written by the Founder: HH Leonards


Did you Know?
$40.00

Mrs. Parks' life, legacy, and connection to Washington, D.C. is little known. With the "Me-Too" movement and rising racial tensions, communicating her story and what she stood for is even more needed, today.


Love is All that Matters
$30.00

A special collection of personal memories, anecdotes, incidents, and observations illustrating her gentle strength, peaceful activism, and capacity for compassion and forgiveness.

Coming Soon

Mrs. Rosa Parks Double Book Collection
$65.00

Both "Did You Know? Things You Don't Know (Or Remember) About Mrs. Rosa Parks" and "Love Is All That Matters" in one jumbo book.

Coming Soon

Gems of Wisdom
$32.00

Through aphorisms, poems and haiku, you'll experience the true power of quiet strength (the essence of Mrs. Parks). This is how you change people’s hearts. This is how you start a movement, from the inside out.

 

Celebrate The Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

#HoldMyHandChallenge

To celebrate the life of Mrs. Rosa Parks we are asking you to come together and hold hands with your friends, family, pets, neighbors, school mates, and office mates starting February 4th.

Help spread Mrs. Parks' messages of hope, unity, and love when you participate - document and share your hand holding experience on your favorite social channel and invite 3 friends to do the challenge as well.

Read the Press Release



Use the hashtag #HoldMyHandChallenge

Thank you Hootie & The Blowfish for lending your song "Hold My Hand" to this movement
Participate