The rebuilt house of Rosa Parks at the WaterFire Arts Center in Providence, R.I. The house where Parks sought refuge in Detroit after fleeing the South will be auctioned on July 26 in New York, with a minimum bid of $1 million. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)
The house where Rosa Parks sought refuge after fleeing the South amid death threats is scheduled for auction next week with a minimum bid of $1 million.
Auctioneer Guernsey’s plans to put the house up for auction July 26 in New York City, and has set a pre-auction estimate of $1 million to $3 million. It’s part of an auction that will feature several other items related to African-American history and culture.
Parks moved to Detroit in 1957, two years after refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. Her family says Parks stayed in her brother’s tiny wood-framed house with 17 other relatives.
The house was going to be demolished by the city of Detroit when it was rescued by Parks’ niece, Rhea McCauley, and a Berlin-based American artist who took it apart and shipped it to Germany. Artist Ryan Mendoza rebuilt it in his yard, turning it into a work of art.
In Berlin, it attracted international attention and a steady stream of visitors interested in learning more about Parks and her importance in the civil rights movement. It was shipped back across the Atlantic Ocean earlier this year to be displayed in Rhode Island. It’s now in storage in Massachusetts.
The house also includes ceramic sculptures of furniture that was in the home when Parks stayed there.
Proceeds from the sale will be split between Parks’ family and Mendoza, the auction house said. Guernsey’s will also auction bricks from the home’s chimney, which had to be dismantled for the project.
Mendoza has said that he wants the house to end up in the hands of somebody who loves Rosa Parks and who wants to display it publicly. The house has become a way to tell the story of how redlining and segregation affected black communities in America, he said.
“This is a way to save this chapter of black oral history,” Mendoza said.
Rosa Parks is affectionately known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” after she refused to surrender her bus seat to a White passenger. But what some may not know is that there was another African American female who performed this same courageous act several months before Parks.
Her name is Claudette Colvin, and with thick glasses framing her small face, and roller set curls hanging on her forehead, a curious and awakened Claudette Colvin defied the law and—to many—logic. At only 15 years old, her disobedience was anything but sophomoric. In her time and geographical location, Blacks were harassed, beaten, and lynched without regard to age or sex. Despite grueling conditions of the Jim Crow South, on March 2, 1955, the young Claudette stood her ground on a Montgomery, Alabama bus and refused to give up her seat for a White passenger.
There were several reasons why Claudette’s valiant efforts were suppressed and not widely known. One of those reasons was that because of her age, Claudette was considered “unreliable” by leading civil rights groups. In addition to ageism, classism and colorism may have played a role as well: Claudette was from a working-class family, and according to her, that fact—as well as her dark complexion—made her an unpalatable choice to garner the sympathies of the masses, both Black and White. Claudette also had one other undesirable issue separating her from history books: a few months after her arrest, Claudette became pregnant. Thus, the upright Rosa Parks, who was considered “morally clean” by then NAACP leader E.D. Nixon, overshadowed the dark, poor, unwed pregnant teenager.
In 1956, Colvin was one of four plaintiffs in Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that Montgomery’s segregated bus system was unconstitutional.
Let’s talk about it. Can you think of other unsung, Black American heroes? Share their stories in the comments below.
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