NAPLES, Italy – The rundown, paint-chipped Detroit house where civil rights icon Rosa Parks took refuge after her historic bus boycott is going on display in Italy in a setting that couldn't be more incongruous: the imposing central courtyard of the Royal Palace in Naples.
It's the latest stop for the house in a yearslong saga that began when Parks' niece saved the tiny two-story home from demolition in Detroit after the 2008 financial crisis. She donated it to an American artist who took it apart and rebuilt it for public display in Germany, and now Italy, after failing to find a permanent resting place for it in the U.S.
The display is being accompanied by a repeating soundtrack entitled “8:46” and lasting that long. It's the original time prosecutors said it took for a Black man, George Floyd, to be killed by white police officers in a May slaying that has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement and protests around the nation in a reckoning with America's history of slavery and racial injustice.
Artist Ryan Mendoza has been campaigning more than five years to draw attention to the historic value of the home, where Parks lived for a short time after her 1955 defining act of defiance: refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama.
This year, Mendoza approached the Naples-based Morra Greco Foundation, where he had worked for a year in the 1990s. The foundation agreed to help organize the exhibit with the backing of the Italian culture ministry and Campania regional government.
In an interview ahead of the opening, Mendoza said he hoped the grandeur of the Naples debut would draw attention to Parks' legacy and help America “remember a house it didn't know it had forgotten.”
He takes particular satisfaction that the house, which is “so fragile that you can almost blow it over,” is being exhibited in the central courtyard of a royal palace.