Statue Of Trailblazing Educator Mary McLeod Bethune Will Be The First Of A Black Woman In The National Statuary Hall Of The U.S. Capitol
In addition to being an educator, Bethune was also a civil rights activist, a women’s rights leader and an advisor to five U.S. presidents.
A statue of trailblazing Black educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune will be displayed in the National Statuary Hall. It will be the first statue of a Black woman in the National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, reports Florida Politics.
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In addition to being an educator, Bethune was also a civil rights activist, a women’s rights leader and an advisor to five U.S. presidents, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover. She was appointed the director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration by Roosevelt. Bethune opened a boarding school in Daytona Beach, Florida, for Black girls, which would later merge with an all-male school to form Bethune-Cookman College, according to Women's History.
The representative of Florida’s 10th Congressional District, Val Demings, pushed for Bethune to be represented in the Hall.
“Mary McLeod Bethune was the most powerful woman I can remember as a child,” Demings said in a Friday statement. “She has been an inspiration to me throughout my whole life. I am proud that she will be Florida’s new face in the U.S. Capitol, and know that her life will continue to inspire all Americans for years to come.”
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was the most powerful woman I can remember as a child. She has inspired me for my whole life.— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) March 10, 2020
I am proud that she will become Florida’s new face in the U.S. Capitol. #WomensHistoryMonth https://t.co/PgXrHsUqZV
Demings has teamed up with the representative for Florida’s 6th Congressional District, Michael Waltz, to introduce a resolution that will authorize a welcome party for the new sculpture. It will allow the carving to be displayed in the Capitol Rotunda for six months as a welcoming ceremony before being placed in the Hall.
“Florida’s Sixth District is honored to have one of its most notable figures celebrated in the U.S. Capitol — and I’m looking forward to thousands of visitors in Washington learning more about Dr. Bethune and her servant leadership to America,” Waltz said.
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune dedicated her life to fighting for civil rights through education — and because of her, Florida and America are a better place.— Rep. Michael Waltz (@RepMichaelWaltz) February 28, 2020
Proud to introduce a bill with @RepValDemings to welcome the statue of Dr. Bethune to our nation's Capitol. #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/7B5Kaw8lIf
The model will be displayed as one of two allotted for Florida. It will replace the statue of former confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith.
The bill authorizing the replacement was signed by then-Governor Rick Scott in 2018.
Puerto Rican sculptor Nilda Comas has been chosen to create the statue, which will be made of white marble, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. Comas will sculpt Bethune to have a rose in one hand and the cane that Roosevelt gifted her in the other. She will be standing on a stack of books and will be wearing a graduation gown and cap to symbolize her efforts in education.
“I’m so proud and honored I was chosen for the Mary McLeod Bethune statue,” Comas said. “The more I read and learned, the more impressed I was. I think she was a master of her destiny. She just went her direction and didn’t question it.”
The statue will be unveiled by 2021.