Sunday, October 08, 2006
From The New York Times…
Rosa Parks Won a Fight, but Left a Licensing Rift
By JEREMY W. PETERS and JULIE BOSMAN
DEARBORN, Mich. — IN the gift shop of the Henry Ford Museum, just steps away from the brightly painted city bus that Rosa Parks defiantly rode into history books 51 years ago, there are tributes of a very different sort to the woman who helped tear down the walls of racial segregation in America.
A T-shirt bearing an image of Bus 2857 from Montgomery, Ala., will set you back $24. For a mere $4.99, you can buy a refrigerator magnet with a picture of the bus. A poster of the famous, albeit staged, 1956 photo by United Press International of Mrs. Parks sitting in front of a white man on a different bus goes for $16. The word “Destiny” is written above the photo.
There are no fewer than five biographies of Mrs. Parks on sale in the gift shop, including a glossy hardcover picture book and a small paperback, “Don’t Know Much About Rosa Parks.”
And as far as Rosa Parks memorabilia goes, this is the tasteful stuff.
On eBay, one seller recently offered commemorative dog tags with her picture for $5.99, not including shipping. Also for sale online were a dishwasher-safe coffee cup bearing a likeness of Mrs. Parks — $11.21, shipping included — and an 8-by-10-inch photo of her in an open coffin after her death in October last year. “The rarest photograph of all,” boasted the caption on this $10 snapshot. The cemetery in Detroit where Mrs. Parks is buried recently raised prices for crypts near her grave to $60,000 from about $45,000.
Rosa Parks — civil rights symbol in life, marketing phenomenon in death — has become the centerpiece of the kind of posthumous peddling usually associated with athletes and Hollywood stars. While licensing experts estimate the current value of selling Mrs. Parks’s image at only six figures a year, they say that over time millions of dollars will be made by those who control her likeness. Mrs. Parks’s courage and standing have also made her one of the few recent African-American political figures, along with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, whose image can generate handsome profits.
(Click on the essay title above to read the full story.)