Rosa Parks is often remembered every February in honor of Black History Month for her courageous action of refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in segregated Montgomery, Alabama. As one of the key icons in the Civil Rights Movement, this year she is receiving continued accolades perfectly timed with what would have been her 100th birthday.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service issued a Rosa Parks “Forever” commemorative stamp showing a depiction of a 1950s era photo of Parks.
On February 1, a few days before Park’s 100th birthday on February 4, President Obama released a proclamation statement to honor the strong, yet soft-spoken civil rights activist:
"As we mark the 100th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ birth, we celebrate the life of a genuine American hero and remind ourselves that although the principle of equality has always been self-evident, it has never been self-executing."
Now admiration for Parks will keep on flowing when she will become the first African-American to have a full-size statue erected in the Capitol collection of more than 180 others at Statuary Hall, an attraction that draws many tourists. There are already busts of black heroesMartin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth, as well as a planned work depicting Frederick Douglass.
The unveiling and dedication will take place Wednesday, February 27 at National Statuary Hall, and President Obama and congressional leaders are among those who will attend.
Parks’ statue was designed by Eugene E. Daub, a California-based master artist and sculptor with more than 30 years of experience. It is cast in bronze with a black granite pedestal; standing nine feet tall, it weighs over one ton.
Daub and the firm Firmin Studios LLC, located in Kensington and San Pedro, Calif., worked closely with Acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen T. Ayers to design the latest addition to the Capitol's art collection, according to Detroit News.
"As humble as she was, she would be overwhelmed by the fact that there would be a statue in Statuary Hall in her honor," Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), with whom Parks worked, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
The GOP-majority 109th Congress (January 2006-2007) authorized the statue in 2005, shortly after Parks’s death. She became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda.
Parks’s full-sized statue was the first one to be approved and funded by Congress since 1873, according to the National Endowment of the Arts. Statuary Hall is an unusual venue for the unveiling because a majority of the statues dispersed there have been provided by states to recognize their historical figures.
Although Parks is most famously known for refusing to move to the back of the bus, her heroism was not limited to this single act. After joining the NAACP in 1943, she investigated and documented cases of horrendous racial and sexual violence whites perpetrated against blacks who opposed segregation. She was often a defender of those individuals. For example, in 1944, she helped organized a nationwide campaign to defend Recy Taylor, an African-American woman kidnapped and gang-raped by a group of white men in Abbeville, Alabama, and she fought to free Jeremiah Reeves, a black teenager later executed for rape after having a consensual relationship with a white woman.
In the early 1950s, Parks focused her attention on the racist practice of segregating city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, where black women were often harassed or assaulted. After her refusal to be bullied out of her bus seat, her act of resistance made headlines and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which involved another legendary civil rights figure, Martin Luther King Jr.
Her courageousness was not without sacrifices. Parks lost her job and received harassment and death threats, which necessitated night watchmen at her home. When vigilantes started bombing black homes, churches, and businesses in Montgomery, Parks relocated to Detroit, where she dedicated the next five decades and remainder of her life to the struggle for equality for black Americans.
"Mrs. Parks takes her rightful place alongside the inventors, the war heroes, freedom fighters and doers who represent the heart of our American story. What a great way to celebrate Black History Month. What a great way to celebrate America," said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a video Thursday.