U.S. to Honor Mary McLeod Bethune With Historic First Black Statue at the Capitol

The United States has announced plans to erect a statue of educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

With the development, Bethune is set to be the first Black person to have a state-commissioned statue in the Capitol.

The statue, an 11-foot marble structure of Bethune, was sculpted by South Floridian artist Nilda Comas.

Comas, who was chosen from 1,600 applicants, also made history as the first Hispanic woman to create a sculpture for the National Statuary Hall of the Capitol. She made the sculpture from the largest (and last) piece of statuary marble from the quarry Michelangelo used to sculpt “David” in Italy over 500 years ago.

The sculpture has been on display at the News-Journal in Daytona Beach, Bethune’s home state of Florida since Monday, October 11.

And according to Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, the larger-than-life statue will remain displayed in Florida for more months till December 12.

Castor however revealed that the statue will be mounted in the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall in February 2022.

A photograph of Mary Bethune in January 1943 (Gordon Parks/Library of Congress)

Mary Bethune was an American educator, civil rights activist and feminist who is widely regarded for establishing a boarding school for Black girls with only $1.50 in 1904. The school later merged with a men’s college to become Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.

Her civil rights championing also led her to find the National Council of Negro Women, and become an adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt and multiple U.S. presidents.

Speaking at the unveiling of Bethune’s statue, Castor described the Black heroine as one who “embodies the very best of the Sunshine State”.

Castor added that, “Floridians and all Americans can take great pride in being represented by the great educator and civil rights icon”.

“I am glad that she is being rightfully recognized here in Florida before she travels to her place of honor and recognition by all of America in the U.S. Capitol.”

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