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Brown University cancels Rosa Parks exhibition due to factual dispute

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — The President of the Providence Chapter of the NAACP is reacting to news that Brown University has canceled a planned exhibition to Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks.

The University announced it would not hold the three month exhibition set to begin in April that was centered around a house in Deteroit where Parks was said to have lived for a time after leaving Alabama.

With a single word - "no" - Rosa Parks became a champion of the Civil Rights movement in America.

In a statement this week, the University said a dispute centering on the house has caused them to do an about face.

"I was disappointed because Rosa Parks was an important person in terms of the NAACP. She was actually the branch secretary of the Birmingham Branch when she did what she did," said Jim Vincent, Providence NAACP President.

The house had been saved from demolition by Parks' niece Rhea McCauley and artist Ryan Mendoza, who had moved it to Berlin, where he lives.

He told NBC 10 last year the plan all along was to find a place to return it to the U.S.

"This house has to go back to the United States now's the time," said Mendoza.

He thought that place was Brown, until the school changed its mind.

The University says it is not part of the dispute and could not speak to it. A lawyer for the Raymond and Rosa Parks Institute for Self Development told the Brown Daily Herald News that Parks did not stay at the home in question, only some of her family lived there.

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McCauley disputed that to the Associated Press, calling Brown's decision a "missed opportunity."

Before the cancellation, house was in the process of being re-assembled in Providence and Brown was preparing a space to exhibit it at the headquarters of Waterfire Providence.

In a statement, Waterfire says it wants to continue working with the artist and the McCauley family, because of the importance of Mendoza's work and its message.

Brown said it will immediately begin repackaging the house and arrange to ship it to its next destination, to be determined by Mendoza.

Vincent says he hopes that is still locally.

"I'd like to see something worked out where if the house, if it can be possible to have the house that she lived in come here, and if that's the house something has to happen," said Vincent.

Brown says it will move forward with a separate exhibition about the Civil Rights Movement.

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