Statue Of Mary McLeod Bethune Unveiled In US Capitol
The educator is the first Black American to be featured in the National Statuary Hall collection.
July 13, 2022 at 7:31 pm
Mary McLeod Bethune continues to shake up the world posthumously. A statue of the educator was unveiled in the National Statuary Hall on Wednesday, making it the first depicting a Black American in the hall’s collection, The Washington Post reports.
Bethune was a civil rights activist, presidential adviser, humanitarian and philanthropist who founded the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, which later became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
The 11-foot tall marble statue of Bethune replaced the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, The Washington Post reports.
Bethune’s statue now sits in the National Statuary Hall to honor her as a distinguished citizen of Florida.
Since 1864, each state has possessed the authority to send two statues of respected citizens to represent their jurisdiction in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall collection.
Interestingly, neither Congress nor the Architect of the Capitol, the agency that maintains the upkeep of the statues, can authorize the removal of any sculpture. Under the current law, only the state’s legislature and governor can order the removal of a figure.
In 2018, a state law was signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) that resulted in the removal of the Smith statue in 2021.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commenced the unveiling ceremony of the statue of Bethune on Wednesday morning.
Students, faculty, staff and alumni of Bethune-Cookman University attended a watch party of the ceremony, WFTV reports.
Alumna and retired university worker Daisy Grimes, who was instrumental in advocating for the installation of Bethune’s statue at the Capitol through petitions, praised the momentous event.
“In spite of the obstacles — and she had them, not only because she was a woman but she was Black — but she never allowed any of those obstacles to prevent her from what her greater decision and desire was,” Grimes said, according to WFTV. “And that was to build this school.”
Though a replica of Bethune is the only statue representing a Black American in the Statuary Hall collection, statues of other noteworthy Black leaders including Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks, and busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth are in the Capitol building, the Post reports.
Bethune was born on July 10, 1875, close to Maysville, South Carolina, and she was one Samuel and Patsy McLeod’s 17 children, according to the National Women’s History Museum.
She advocated for her community when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her as an adviser, and she was a close friend of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1924, she served as president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and was founding president of the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. Bethune was the only Black woman in attendance at the United Nations founding conference in 1945, at the appointment of President Harry S. Truman. She also worked as a journalist and penned works for Black newspapers like the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender.
Bethune co-owned a Daytona, Florida, resort and co-founded the Central Life Insurance Company of Tampa.
In 1974, a statue was placed in Washington, D.C., in her honor, and in 1985, she was celebrated with a postage stamp.
Before her death in 1955, she established the United Negro College Fund, according to the Post.
To watch the full ceremony, click here.