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Letters to Mandela, Parks exhibit at MSU

January 16, 2010
By DAVID N. GOODMAN Associated Press Writer

DETROIT (AP) - An exhibition of letters written by children around the world to South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela and African American civil rights activist Rosa Parks makes its U.S. debut this weekend at Michigan State University.

''What was it like to go to 'color only' places?'' one child asked Parks. ''Personally, I think it would be horrible.''

''I hold you in highest regards and hope that someday I will make a difference in the way that you have,'' another child told Mandela.

Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years under South Africa's apartheid regime and led the country's transition to black majority government in the early 1990s, visited the exhibition - ''Dear Mr. Mandela, Dear Mrs. Parks: Children's Letters, Global Lessons'' - when it opened in South Africa on his 90th birthday in 2008.

Parks is remembered for her refusal to yield her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, which energized the civil rights movement in 1955. She later moved to Detroit, and died in 2005 at age 92.

''The inspiration that those letters hold and the message in those letters are ... timeless, just as the values that Mr. Mandela and Mrs. Parks stood up for are also timeless,'' said museum curator Marsha McDowell.

The display includes images or enlargements of about 50 letters, along with a video that includes statements from Mandela, the Rev. Desmond Tutu and Barack Obama, recorded when he was still a senator.

McDowell said the letters could help children today relate to the events that transformed the world before they were born.



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