House where Rosa Parks sought refuge will be displayed
Providence, R.I. – The house where Rosa Parks sought refuge after she fled the South will be displayed in Rhode Island for at least a month after all because several groups have provided money.
The future of the rebuilt house from Detroit was uncertain after it was taken on a trans-Atlantic journey and Brown University reneged on plans to exhibit it.
A nonprofit arts organization, WaterFire Providence, said Thursday that it will put the house on display within two weeks.
WaterFire is receiving money from the Nash Family Foundation, one of the original exhibit sponsors, NAACP Providence, and others.
Brown still will pay for the dismantling and transportation after the exhibit ends, according to WaterFire. The exhibit will run through at least June 3.
The house where Parks lived after sparking the Montgomery bus boycott in the 1950s was on a demolition list in Detroit until it was saved by Parks’ niece and a Berlin-based artist. The artist, Ryan Mendoza, moved it to Germany and reassembled it in his yard, piece by piece.
It was supposed to be the centerpiece of a weekslong exhibition this spring at Brown University, which the Ivy league school abruptly canceled.
Brown cited an unspecified dispute involving the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which Parks co-founded but which has feuded with relatives for years. A lawyer for the institute has questioned whether Parks spent any significant time in the house.
Volunteers partially assembled the house, and it was displayed for a weekend in Providence.
Mendoza said he jumped for joy when he learned funding came through for a longer exhibit.
“I had really feared that it would be shipped back to Berlin,” he said. “I feared that the importance of this house would not be recognized.”
When Brown’s exhibit was canceled, the house was mostly reconstructed, but the roof wasn’t finished, Mendoza said. Mendoza, who has returned to Berlin, said he’d like to finish it but likely wouldn’t be able to anytime soon. He said the house can be seen as a snapshot of civil rights in America – “unfinished business.”
Parks’ niece, Rhea McCauley, said the house is now more of a community project, the way it should be.
“It’s much better,” she said. “It’s the way, I believe, Rosa would’ve wanted it.”
Jim Vincent, NAACP Providence branch president, said the exhibit can help teach people about civil disobedience, why it was needed at the time and its effect.
“It’s timely, especially now at this point in our history here in America, that we tell these stories of civil rights heroines like Rosa Parks,” he said.
WaterFire hopes to extend the exhibit at its arts center in Providence if additional funding becomes available.