When she died about six years ago, Rosa Parks left behind a legacy of historic proportions. Through her simple act of civil disobedience, Ms. Parks is widely recognized as being the symbolic spark that helped begin the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s. While her place in American history is secure, her estate has been the subject of an ongoing legal dispute in the state of Michigan ever since she died.
Ms. Parks lived much of her life in the city of Detroit, and when she died there in 2005 she left behind personal memorabilia and intellectual property estimated to be worth between about $8 million and $10 million. Ever since her death the nonprofit institute she founded, the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, and 15 of her nieces and nephews have been engaged in an ongoing struggle about who was the legal owner of the property.
Late in 2011, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned a previous ruling by a Michigan appeals court and gave the property to the nonprofit Institute. This month, the probate court judge presiding over the Parks estate case indicated he would issue final orders transferring the property to the Institute. The orders would also make it clear that any proceeds from the sale of any of the memorabilia be divided between the two parties, with the Institute receiving 80% of the proceeds and the remaining 20% going to the 15 nieces and nephews.