The “small, quiet woman” from Detroit is getting a big honor.
U.S. Capitol architect Stephen T. Ayers disclosed Thursday the statue of Rosa Parks that will be unveiled Wednesday — the first full-size statue to honor an African-American woman at the Capitol — will be nearly nine feet tall. A bust of Sojourner Truth is at the Capitol.
Cast in bronze, the sculpture and its black granite pedestal weigh about 2,700 pounds.
President Barack Obama on Thursday told radio interviewer Al Sharpton the dedication will be a “powerful moment where a seamstress joins some of the titans of our government in her rightful place as somebody who helped to bring about a more just America.”
Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, on February 4, 1913. She was raised on a farm, attended rural schools, and then took some vocational and academic courses at the Industrial School for Girls in Montgomery before leaving to care for her grandmother and mother during their illnesses. In 1932 she married barber Raymond Parks, who was working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1933 she completed her high school studies; 10 years later, she joined the NAACP and was elected secretary. Her involvement with the organization heightened her awareness of the injustices imposed by Jim Crow laws in the former Confederate states, which mandated racial segregation in public facilities and retail establishments.
On December 1, 1955, while riding a bus home from her job as a department-store seamstress, she refused to obey the driver’s direction to move from her seat to make room for a newly boarded white passenger. She was arrested. On December 5, at her trial, she was found guilty of disorderly conduct and violating a local ordinance. That day was also the start of a bus boycott that would last more than a year and increase the prominence of many figures in the civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The boycott ended only after a separate Supreme Court decision held that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional.
After her conviction, Parks was fired from her job and she and her husband sought work, first in Virginia and then in Michigan. She worked as a seamstress until 1965, and then served as secretary and receptionist to U.S. Representative John Conyers until her retirement in 1988. She co-founded the Rosa L. Parks Scholarship Foundation in 1980 and the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development in 1987. She published her autobiography in 1992 and her memoirs in 1995.
Rosa Parks remained an icon of the civil rights movement to the end of her life. In 1999, the United States Congress honored her with a Congressional Gold Medal. Following her death on October 24, 2005, she was accorded the rare tribute of having her remains lie in honor in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in recognition of her contribution to advancing civil and human rights.
For the full article, see David Shepardson, “Bronze Rosa Parks statue at U.S. Capitol will be 9 feet tall”, Detroit News, February 21, 2013.
Mark Memmott, “Rosa Parks Statue, Capitol’s First Of African-American Woman, To Be Dedicated“, The Two-Way Breaking News from NPR, February 12, 2013.
YouTube Video about Rosa Parks