Rosa Parks' Detroit house finds a home in Berlin In this April 6, 2017 photo the rebuilt house of Rosa Parks sits in a courtyard in Berlin. American artist Ryan Mendoza has taken apart the Michigan house that Rosa Parks once lived in and rebuilt it in the German capital, to raise awareness about the late civil rights activist and her legacy. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Rosa Parks' Detroit house finds a home in Berlin
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After Rosa Parks made her iconic act of protest on an Alabama bus, her life in the Southern state became unbearable. She faced a stream of death threats. She lost her job in a department store. Her husband was also fired. So Parks' family packed up and moved into her brother's Detroit home.
 
In the years after Parks' death, that house was largely forgotten, as Sally McGrane reports for The New York Times. The structure fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition. But thanks to an unlikely collaboration between Parks' niece and an American artist, Parks' Detroit abode has found a new home. It's in Berlin in Germany.
 
The house now sits in one of the city's working class neighborhoods. It is behind an apartment building. It's not the most obvious location. But the home has attracted significant attention. Its arrival in the country made front-page news. A steady steam of visitors has been stopping by the house since it opened to the public in April.
 
Transporting the historic home overseas was a last resort for Rhea McCauley. She is Parks' niece. For years, she had tried - and failed - to raise the funds necessary for restoring her aunt's former residence.
 
"I talked to neighbors," McCauley said during an interview with Atika Shubert of CNN. "I asked for help...I begged several organizations that Auntie Rosa worked with because I thought they loved her. But no, they didn't want to help me restore the property."
 
Then McCauley was introduced to Ryan Mendoza. He is a Berlin-based artist from New York. For one of his previous projects, Mendoza had purchased a derelict Detroit home. He dismantled it and resurrected it at the Verbeke Foundation in Belgium. The installation explored the American subprime mortgage crisis, which has led to thousands of foreclosures in Detroit. That's according to The Detroit News.
 
When he spoke to McCauley, Mendoza saw an opportunity to save another of the city's abandoned homes, this one once occupied by a hero of the civil rights movement.
 
In August of last year, Mendoza and a local team began taking apart the house, reports Stephanie Kirchner of The Washington Post. The parts were packed into shipping crates and sent off to Europe. By October, Mendoza had started piecing the home back together in the courtyard next to his Berlin home. He repaired the house's crumbling roof and collapsing walls, but left its exterior unpolished.
 
"I'm glad it's not painted nicely, with flowers and a picket fence," McCauley told McGrane of the Times. "We're not talking about a fairy tale, there's no Hansel and Gretel here. We're talking about a lady who sacrificed so much, who suffered."
 
Visitors are not allowed inside the house for insurance reasons. But also because Mendoza wanted it "to have its dignity," McGrane reports. The artist, however, has been letting himself in the house to play recordings of Parks' radio interviews, filling the structure with her voice.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why was it important for the exterior of the house to remain unpolished?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (29)
  • mariusm-kut
    5/25/2017 - 07:56 a.m.

    I think the outside of the house was unpolished because they did not want to paint over Rosa Park's memory. I was wondering how Ryan Mendoza repaired the house without making it crumble more. I think he did not use machines that could hurt the house.

    • annam-kut
      6/07/2017 - 10:24 p.m.

      I agree that the reason why the outside of the house was unpolished because they wanted to keep Rosa's memories there, so they can keep all the history

    • annam-kut
      6/07/2017 - 10:29 p.m.

      I think the house was not painted over was because they wanted to keep Rosa's past and memories with the house. How did Mendoza and the team not tend to make the peices of the home crumbel? It would be really hard not to break the wood because of how old the house is.

    • vivienb-kut
      6/08/2017 - 10:54 a.m.

      That would make sense.

  • alant-
    5/25/2017 - 08:40 a.m.

    Because of how old the house is and how people can go up to it and touch it and of how old the building is it might collapses.

  • cesars-
    5/25/2017 - 08:40 a.m.

    It was important because McGrane wanted to keep it that way so then the house rosa parks lived in had dignity.

  • emmaw-kut
    5/29/2017 - 05:51 p.m.

    The reason it was so important was because Mendoza wanted the house to keep its dignity. Mendoza plays tapes of Rosa's interviews to fill the house with her voice. To show that her life wasn't a fairy tale, and that she sacrificed so much and suffered so much.

  • lauraw-kut
    5/29/2017 - 08:42 p.m.

    I think it was a good idea to refurbish the house the question I have is though what would they move the house to Europe? It has been in Detroit for years nobody has touched it. I don't think that is right, but I think we should keep it in America.

  • gabew-kut
    5/29/2017 - 08:50 p.m.

    Think about it if it's in it original paint when rosa parks was in that house I mean what if you painted over it who knows rosa parks may have helped with the paint but obviously must have touched the outside of the house and if it's painted over the original thing/part that she touched is gone And also the house isn't suppose to attract attention so also with its original paint so yeah

  • aidenj57-
    5/30/2017 - 08:35 a.m.

    to keep it historic, and to make it stand out to other houses

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