Family Auctions Rosa Parks’ Restored Detroit Home

By Sameer Rao Jun 14, 2018

The Associated Press reports today (June 14) that Guernsey’s, an auction house in New York City, plans to sell a house once occupied by Rosa Parks in July.

The auction represents the latest chapter in a saga that started when the racial justice activist reportedly moved to Detroit in 1957 and lived in the house, which was owned by her brother, Sylvester McCauley. His daughter, Rhea McCauley, saved the house from demolition in 2014 when she bought it from the city of Detroit for $500. She then developed a restoration plan with artist Ryan Mendoza, who deconstructed the house and shipped its parts to Germany, where it was rebuilt and put on display in Berlin last year.

Mendoza later shipped the house to Providence, Rhode Island, for a planned civil rights history exhibit at Brown University. The Washington Post reported in March that the school canceled the display after an attorney for the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which Parks co-founded, disputed that the civil rights icon actually lived in the house. McCauley rejected the attorney’s allegation. Mendoza told The AP that the dwelling will go into a storage container in Massachusetts tomorrow (June 15), where it will be kept until the auction. 

According to a statement from Guernsey’s—which previously handled the distribution of Parks’ personal archives, part of which was gifted to the Library of Congress—a portion of proceeds from the auction will support the Rosa McCauley Parks Heritage Foundation. The house is part of a larger auction of Black history artifacts, which includes Parks’ notes on the first time she met Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Alex Haley’s manuscript for "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," with both the activist and writer’s handwritten notes; the A Cinema Apart Collection of Black film memorabilia from the 1920s to 1950s; and a record contract that Joe Jackson signed on behalf of The Jackson Five.