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February 27, 2013

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Honored with Capitol Statue

by Chris Simkins

A civil rights pioneer, and her groundbreaking action, were remembered by President Obama and lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.  They honored the late Rosa Parks with a full-sized statue of her in the Capitol Building.

It's a lasting tribute to Rosa Parks -- known as the mother of the U.S. civil rights movement.

Dignitaries gathered to unveil  a nearly three-meter-tall bronze sculpture of Parks in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.  It honors the African-American woman who changed American history in 1955 when she refused to move to the back of a segrated bus.

"We celebrate a seamstress slight in stature but mighty in courage. She defied the odds, and she defied injustice," Obama said.

President Obama paid tribute to her courage.

"Rosa Parks' singular act of disobediance launched a movement.  And that is why this statue belongs in this hall to remind us no matter how lofty just what it is that leadership requires, what citizenship requires," Obama said.   

It's the first full-size statue of an African-American woman in the Capitol.  It recognizes Park's signature achievement, her rejection of racial segregation in the south in the 1950s.  Congressman James Clyburn said Parks holds a rightful place among the other titans of American History also on display.

"This statue forever ordains Rosa Parks status as an icon of our nation's struggles to live out its declaration that we are all created equal," Clyburn said.

Parks made history in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1955 when she refused to move to the back of the bus and give her seat to a white passenger. She was jailed, charged and fined.  At the time, laws in the south required racial separation in buses, restaurants and public accommodations. Her action inspired a citywide bus boycott by blacks, and it spawned nationwide efforts to end segregation. In 1991, Parks told VOA she was motivated by a simple belief.

"I always believed in the golden rule: treat others as you wish to have them treat you. And I think that is a good rule to live by," Parks said.

Parks' minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, joined her cause and helped organize the bus boycott which lasted a year until the Supreme Court struck down segregtion.

"The long awaited mandate from the United States Supreme Court concerning bus segregation came to Montgomery. Segregation in public transportation is both legally and sociologically invalid," King said.

The Parks statue was authorized by an act of Congress in 2005 after she died.

Now, this recognition at the US Capitol ensures that her life and legacy will live on.