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Civil Rights Leader’s Home May Be Returned to US

2017-09-03

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  • Rosa Parks became famous in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama.
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  • She was important in the movement for civil rights in the American South during the 1950s and 60s.
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  • At the time, blacks in the South were forced to sit in the back of public buses and to give up their seats to white people.
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  • Parks moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1957 to escape death threats.
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  • She continued living in Detroit until her death in 2005, at age 92.
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  • But the house in Detroit where Parks lived for many years was abandoned and scheduled to be torn down.
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  • Her niece, Rhea McCauley, bought it for $500 to stop it from being destroyed.
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  • She then gave it to American artist, Ryan Mendoza.
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  • Mendoza and others took it apart and then sent it across the Atlantic Ocean to the German capital of Berlin.
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  • There, he led efforts to rebuild the house.
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  • It now is behind his own house in Berlin.
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  • It gets daily visitors, although it is difficult to find, Mendoza said.
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  • But less than a year after the house was rebuilt in Berlin, Mendoza decided it should be returned to the United States.
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  • He made the decision after deadly violence took place at a recent white nationalist event in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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  • That incident increased calls for removing statues of Confederate leaders from the Civil War in the U.S.
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  • Mendoza said there are not enough civil rights monuments “to balance things out” with the Confederate statues.
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  • He said the Rosa Parks house belongs back in America.
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  • “Imagine if the house were on a public setting in a prominent city in the U.S.,” Mendoza said.
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  • “That’s an education tool that shouldn’t be denied the American people. They have to know their past.”
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  • Peter Hammer is a law professor and director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University in Detroit.
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  • He believes the house would be welcomed back in Detroit.
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  • “My sense is that the Germans have adequately shamed us for not protecting our own history,” Hammer told VOA.
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  • He noted that Detroit has failed to protect historical homes in the past.
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  • Such houses include the former home of Ralph Bunche, the first African-American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
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  • He received the award in 1950 for helping negotiate peace between Israelis and Arabs that led to the creation of the country of Israel in 1948.
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  • Bunche’s home in Detroit became a parking lot.
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  • Detroit’s failure to protect history also is shown by the loss of the Rosa Parks house, Hammer said.
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  • He said that Parks was an important civil rights activist “long before" she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama.
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  • In Detroit, Hammer said Parks served as a mentor to people fighting for equal rights.
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  • A mentor is someone who gives help and advice to people who are less experienced.
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  • I’m Bruce Alpert.
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