WASHINGTON — A new piece of history is now part of National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol.
Civil Rights icon, educator, author, philanthropist, humanitarian and women's rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune will be honored Wednesday when a statue of her likeness is unveiled at Statuary Hall. Her statue will represent her home state of Florida.
The statue of Dr. Bethune marks the first time in U.S. history that an African American will represent a state in the Hall at the U.S. Capitol.
Dr. Bethune will join women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, whose memorial bust was unveiled in 2009 in the Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center, as the first African American women to be honored with busts in the United States Capitol.
Born to former slaves a decade after the Civil War, Dr. Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) in 1935. She was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as his National Advisor, with whom she worked to create the Federal Council on Colored Affairs aka the Black Cabinet. Dr. Bethune also founded a private school for Black girls in Daytona Beach, Florida, which today is a prominent HBCU, Bethune-Cookman University.
Dr. Bethune is known as "The First Lady of the Struggle" because of her commitment to Civil Rights.
“Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was more than a notion…She was fearless. It is appropriate that her statue will replace that of a Confederate General, who fought to keep her family and her community enslaved, while the work she did throughout her life helped to keep freedom available for so many," said Dr. Bethune's granddaughter, Dr. Evelyn Bethune. "My grandmother was courageous and a visionary, far ahead of her time. She was not blinded by the light of accolades, but clearly pushed past the establishment limits of her time to improve the lives of African Americans; and, in doing so, improved the quality of life for all Americans.”
The new statue will be unveiled at a ceremony at 11 a.m. Wednesday.