More than half a century after she sat defiantly on an Alabama city bus, Rosa Parks has a permanent place in the U.S. Capitol — the first black woman to be honored with a statue there.
President Barack Obama, congressional leaders and more than 50 of Parks’ relatives took part Wednesday in the unveiling of a 9-foot bronze statue of Parks in Statuary Hall.
“This morning, we celebrate a seamstress slight in stature but mighty in courage,” the president said. “In a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America and change the world.”
Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. and the highest-ranking black member of Congress, called Parks “the first lady of civil rights, the mother of the movement, the saint of an endless struggle.
Her arrest touched off a 381-day boycott of the bus system, a seminal moment in the civil rights movement. In 1956, the Supreme Court banned segregation on public transportation.
A bronze statue of Rosa Parks is delivered to the U.S. Capitol’s Memorial Door by a crane in Washington on Friday.
Parks died in October 2005 at age 92. Six days later, she lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. The next month, President George W. Bush directed Congress to commission a statue of Parks for the Capitol.
The Statuary Hall collection includes 100 statues in five locations in the Capitol. Among the others in Statuary Hall itself are William Jennings Bryan and Daniel Webster — and Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.
Boehner gave a welcome address at the unveiling ceremony and said: “Every now and then, we’ve got to step back and say to ourselves: What a country. This is one of those moments.”
Parks was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999, but Rhea McCauley, a niece, told The Associated Press that the Statuary Hall honor is different.
“The medal, you could take it, put it on a mantel,” she said. “But her being in the hall itself is permanent.”