Rosa Parks

Rebuilding American History in Berlin

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The rebuilding of Rosa Parks house in Berlin reveals differences between how Germany and the United States approach to the culture of remembrance.

  • Facts


    • The Detroit home of Civil Rights hero Rosa Parks was earmarked for demolition.
    • Instead, her niece bought it and artist Ryan Mendoza had its parts shipped to Berlin where he reassembled it.
    • The reconstructed house will go on show in April along with a photographic exhibition and a documentary film.
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Rosa Parks House during reconstruction in Berlin, copyright Fabia Mendoza
Rosa Parks' House during reconstruction in Berlin. Copyright: Fabia Mendoza

Artist Ryan Mendoza is still puzzled why Michelle Obama didn’t respond when he attempted to contact her. He believes the wooden house in which the civil rights icon Rosa Parks lived belongs in the garden of the White House. And who would have been better suited to move it there than the Obamas? Wasn’t the first African-American president the last domino in a series put in motion by Rosa Parks when, in 1955, she refused to give her bus seat to a white man.

In September 2016, a heap of slightly damaged wooden boards reached Berlin; the transport across the Atlantic had cost almost $13,000. Mr. Mendoza laid a concrete foundation in the courtyard between his studio and apartment building in the city’s Wedding district. Then he got to work nailing the boards back together into a house.

Since then, winter has come and almost gone. On the other side of the Atlantic, Donald Trump was sworn in as president, and the pile of wood in Berlin seemed to acquire more and more significance. The house almost appears to have found asylum here.

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