Restored Rosa Parks House in Berlin to be Shipped Back to U.S.

Ryan Mendoza, an American artist, in front of the exhibit he made in Berlin of the Rosa Parks house.
Gordon Welters for The New York Times

In a backyard in Berlin, a ramshackle house that was once a haven for the civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks is preparing for its third life — back in the United States.

It had almost been lost to history, falling into blight, abuse and foreclosure, in Detroit. But in 2016, the American artist Ryan Mendoza shipped the dismantled facade in two containers to his home in Germany.

There, it was restored as an art exhibit in his garden in the Wedding neighborhood. Then the strange and itinerant journey of the wood-frame house took another turn recently, when a member of the Nash Family Foundation, based in Manitowoc, Wis., formally agreed to pay for its passage back.

“I never wanted to rebuild it in my backyard,” Mr. Mendoza said by phone from Berlin. “But I wanted to protect it.”

Rosa Parks in Detroit in 1988.
Michael J. Samojeden/Associated Press

“It’s time for the house to return home,” he added. “It’s needed for people to have another major point of reference for how to treat each other with dignity. This will be a marker on the ground.”

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.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Yonette Joseph

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