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Artist Moves Rosa Parks’s House to Berlin, Following Threat of Demolition

Berlin-based American artist Ryan Mendoza disassembled the Detroit home of Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks and rebuilt it in Berlin after he learned that it was going to be demolished, Sally McGrane of the New York Times reports.

Ever since he opened the house to the public last month, Mendoza has been staging thirty-minute sound performances, in which a part of a radio interview Parks gave in 1957 animates the structure. “It’s my job to keep the house alive,” Mendoza said.

Rhea McCauley, Parks’s niece, originally approached the artist last year after she bought the building for $500, but could not find someone willing to invest in preserving the historic site. Mendoza agreed to help and successfully fundraised more than $100,000 for the project. After taking the house apart, and shipping all of the wood and materials to Berlin, he reconstructed it right next to his own home. Mendoza’s wife, Fabia, even filmed a documentary about the enterprise. They eventually hope to find the building a more permanent home.

When McCauley traveled to Berlin for the opening on April 8, she said, “I was amazed to find more knowledge of Auntie Rosa’s legacy there than here.” While many people remember Parks for refusing to move from her seat in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, an act which fueled the Civil Rights movement, not many people know that afterwards she received numerous death threats and ultimately fled to Detroit.

Mendoza said that dozens of people drop by daily to pay homage to the little house. Many express amazement that no one in the United States wanted to save it.