Rosa Parks and Pancakes

Rosa Parks, 1956 Library of Congress

Rosa Parks, 1956
Library of Congress

I’ve never had aspirations to be a food blogger, but where cooking or baking intersect with history and archives, I’ll dabble a little.

The Library of Congress recently opened a collection of Rosa Parks’s archives. While most of us know what she did for the Civil Rights movement, most probably do not know a whole lot about her personal life or who she was as a person. This collection shines some light on Rosa Parks, the woman.

I have a vague memory of an elementary school teacher telling my class that Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man because she was tired that day and wanted to sit. Maybe Parks did actually say that she was “tired”, but she meant it in the context that she was tired of being treated poorly for the color of her skin.  I don’t know if my teacher meant to diminish Parks’s actions. Maybe the point was to make her more relatable. But this narrative certainly obscures who she was as a person. Thankfully, I later learned that that story was not accurate. The Library of Congress collection shows through her personal correspondence and other materials that Parks was involved in the Civil Rights movement long before she refused to give up her seat. She may not have woken up that day knowing she was going to ignite a bus boycott that would be a pivotal part of the Civil Rights movement. But she wasn’t simply physically tired and in need of a place to sit.

In addition to correspondence, notes, other writings, and photographs, the collection at the Library of Congress contains a recipe for Parks’s “Featherlite Pancakes”. This morning I decided to try them out and let me tell you — they are delicious. The pancakes don’t really have anything to do with civil rights or history, but I think they can humanize an iconic figure in a way. These are the same pancakes that Rosa Parks made and probably shared with her husband.

"Featherlite Pancakes" Library of Congress

“Featherlite Pancakes”
Library of Congress

The recipe is as follows:

Sift together:

1 C flour

2 T baking powder

1/2 t salt

2 T sugar

Mix:

1 egg

1 1/4 C milk

1/3 C peanut butter

1 T shortening or oil

Combine all ingredients. Cook at 275 degrees on griddle

The word “melted” appears between the lines on peanut butter and shortening, but I assume they go with the shortening. I used an electric mixer for the wet ingredients, and saved the oil (coconut) for the griddle. At such a low temperature, the pancakes took quite a while to cook, but they are worth the wait. The recipe makes plenty for two people, maybe even enough for three.

Delicious Featherlite Pancakes

Delicious Featherlite Pancakes For some reason, I’m not very good at making round pancakes.

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