SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

April 11, 2014

Rosa Parks archives remain unsold in warehouse

(Continued)

Steele’s lawyer, Steven Cohen, said Parks’ heirs and the institute certainly could come to agreement on sending the artifacts to an appropriate institution “if we could close out the estate and get away from” the probate court. He said he hopes to resolve the matter in six months to a year.

“It will happen,” Cohen said. “But right now we’re hamstrung, because the probate court continues to want to monitor and control our activities. And it shouldn’t.”

Parks, who died in 2005 at age 92, stipulated in her will that the institute bearing her name receive a trove of personal correspondence, papers relating to her work for the Montgomery branch of the NAACP, tributes from presidents and world leaders, school books, family Bibles, clothing and furniture. Her nieces and nephews challenged her will, and her archives were seized by a court; a judge ordered it sold in one lump sale.

King’s belongings also are locked in a legal dispute. King’s sons, Martin Luther King III and Dexter Scott King, want to sell or lease their father’s Nobel Peace Prize medallion and one of his Bibles; King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, opposes such a move. Because of the squabbling, a judge ordered the Bible and prize medal to be held in a safe deposit box controlled by the court until the disagreement can be resolved.

Since 2006, Guernsey’s Auctioneers have kept Parks’ valuables in a New York warehouse, waiting for someone to offer the $8 million to $10 million asking price. By comparison, the city of Atlanta paid $32 million to King’s children for his papers, and the Henry Ford Museum paid $492,000 just for the bus aboard which Parks took her 1955 stand for civil rights.

Rex Ellis, associate director of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, thinks Parks’ archives should be in a museum or research facility. Ellis would not say whether Smithsonian officials are interested in buying it, just that they would “love for these items to be a part of the museum,” due to open next year, which is also the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery bus boycott.

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