Passage Home, and Perhaps a 3rd Life, for the Rosa Parks House in Berlin

While the house has a ticket back to America, the question of where it would find a permanent home remains unanswered.

The hurdles seem huge, the logistics daunting, but calls and emails have gone out for help to institutions including Brown University in Rhode Island, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and the Brooklyn Museum, among others, Mr. Mendoza said.

At least two institutions — Brown and Wright — said they were seriously considering the project.

“The house has a symbolic importance — it’s important in the narrative of her life,” said James Nash, a board member and the driving force behind the foundation’s pledge. “She suffered for a huge act of courage. It should be here, not in Berlin.”

Mr. Mendoza, who lives in Germany with his wife, Fabia, a fellow artist and filmmaker, and their young son, said it’s important now more than ever to repatriate the house to the United States, a nation convulsing from deep racial and social wounds.

Photo

Rosa Parks in Detroit in 1988.

Credit
Michael J. Samojeden/Associated Press

“I’ve been out of the U.S. for 25 years, and I’m looking at it through a telescope,” he said. “I’m seeing a dark time in our history.”

Mr. Mendoza points to the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville, Va., when neo-Nazis and far-right marchers clashed with counterprotesters. That the rally began over the push to remove some of the nearly 1,500 Confederate monuments in the country speaks to his quest, Mr. Mendoza said.

He said the house would be a necessary addition to the comparatively sparse number of monuments dedicated to the civil rights movement. Mr. Mendoza envisions a temporary exhibition at first. To him, the house is a totem of tolerance, embodying the woman who “changed the world” by saying no.

In 1955, Ms. Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person in Montgomery, Ala., sparking a seminal bus boycott. After she received death threats, Ms. Parks sought the safety of her brother’s house at 2672 South Deacon Street in 1957.

She arrived “homeless and penniless,” her niece Rhea McCauley, who is nearly 70, recalled. “She literally started her life over when she came to the city of Detroit. She was blacklisted.”

The three-bedroom house cocooned a whopping 17 people…

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