More than half a century after she refused to give up her seat on an Alabama city bus, Rosa Parks has an immovable place in the U.S. Capitol—the first black woman to be honored with a statue there.
President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from both parties said at an unveiling Wednesday that the depiction was fitting: Parks is shown seated, hands clasped in front of her, eyes fixed forward.
“Rosa Parks’ singular act of disobedience launched a movement,” Obama said. “The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind.”
On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks, then a 42-year-old seamstress, broke the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a packed bus. Her arrest touched off a yearlong boycott of the bus system, a turning point in the civil rights movement. In 1956, the Supreme Court banned segregation on public transportation.
Parks died in October 2005, at age 92, and would have turned 100 this month.
On Wednesday, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., and the highest-ranking black member of Congress, called her “the first lady of civil rights, the mother of the movement, the saint of an endless struggle.”
The statue of Parks, 9 feet tall and in bronze, will be in Statuary Hall, where the House of Representatives met in the early 1800s. It is part of a collection of 100 in five locations in the Capitol.
Among the others in Statuary Hall are William Jennings Bryan and Daniel Webster. House Speaker John Boehner pointed out that the statue of Parks will be “right in the gaze” of that of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. He said her unassuming presence should inspire people to “draw strength from stillness.”
The sculptor was Eugene Daub of San Pedro, Calif.