There are many historical figures that are memorialized as statues in our country’s capital. It was announced this week that our nation’s capital is about to add the first statue of a historic black woman to its collection.
Education pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune will be making history as the first black woman to have her likeness displayed in the U.S Capitol. Bethune was an advocate for educational and civil rights before eventually founding the prestigious Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. The statue will replace the bust of former Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith. In 2018, former Florida Gov. Rick Scott authorized the replacement after national scrutiny regarding statues honoring those who fought for the Confederacy.
Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings and Republican Rep. Michael Waltz have led the charge to cement Bethune’s legacy. “When Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was a child, she picked up a book. The other children, seeing that she was black, told her ‘put that down, you can’t read,” said Demings in a statement. “That moment started a lifelong commitment to education and civil rights and launched an unparalleled legacy that lives on today. In her last will and testament, she wrote that she leaves us with hope, love, faith, responsibility to our young people and thirst for education. Education: the key to success in America. Therefore, it is more than fitting that she should be here in the ‘People’s House.”
The two representatives introduced the resolution to have a welcome ceremony for the new statue. The move will ensure the bust of the legendary education activist is on display in the Rotunda for six months prior to its permanent display in the National Statuary Hall. “Mary McLeod Bethune was the most powerful woman I can remember as a child,” added Demings. “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.”
The statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune will be unveiled in 2021.