U.S. honors civil rights activist Rosa Parks with statue inside the U.S. Capitol

U.S. honors civil rights activist Rosa Parks with statue inside the U.S. Capitol

Rosa Parks Statue in the U.S. Capitol

By Jeff Mason
Reuters

WASHINGTON – American leaders unveiled a statue of Rosa Parks on Wednesday, briefly setting aside political differences to honor the civil rights heroine, who became the first black woman to have a monument inside the U.S. Capitol.

Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a segregated Alabama bus for a white passenger in 1955 sparked a boycott that galvanized the movement for equal rights for blacks in Montgomery and nationwide.

Black men and women stayed off the buses, walking or arranging other rides to work for more than a year to fight for desegregation.

President Barack Obama joined congressional leaders from both political parties to unveil the statue of Parks, who died in 2005 at age 92.

Unlike nearby statues of men standing, the one of Parks shows her seated – the position of quiet resistance that led to her arrest.

“We celebrate a seamstress, slight in stature but mighty in courage,” Obama said in his remarks.

“She lived a life of activism, but also a life of dignity and grace. And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America – and change the world,” he said.

Obama, who seemed moved by the spirited singing of a military chorus, joined Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi at the event.

The five leaders are set to meet at the White House on Friday to discuss spending cuts scheduled to go into effect that day. Both parties are seeking to blame the other for the automatic cuts, which the White House has warned will damage economic growth.

Masking their differences, the leaders made polite conversation at the ceremony, and each gave a tribute to Parks.

Boehner compared her likeness to the Statue of Liberty and noted the irony of her statue’s placement near the statue of the man who led the Confederate fight to maintain slavery during the U.S. Civil War.

“We place her … here in a chamber where many fought to prevent a day like this, and right in the gaze of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy,” Boehner said.

Obama said it was people like Parks who paved the way for his election as the first black American president in 2008.

“Rosa Parks’ singular act of disobedience launched a movement,” he said. “The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today.”

Rosa Parks Statue in the U.S. Capitol

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Video: Unveil of the Rosa Parks statue

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Video: The Montgomery Bus Boycott

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Video:  President Obama dedicates a statue honoring Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol- February 27, 2013
Entire presentation

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Video: Rosa Parks 1950s

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Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

Rosa Louise McCauley was born in Tuskegee on February 4, 1913, to James McCauley, a carpenter and stonemason, and Leona Edwards, a teacher. She spent much of her childhood living with her maternal grandparents in Pine Level, a small town in southeast Montgomery County. There she began her education in an all-black school with a single teacher serving all fifty students. In 1924 the 11-year-old McCauley enrolled in the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls, which offered a vocational curriculum of cooking, sewing, and housekeeping under the instruction of northern whites. Family illnesses forced McCauley to quit school at age sixteen, when she began cleaning houses for white people and taking in sewing. At age 20, she married Raymond Parks, a barber from Wedowee, Randolph County, and together they made a modest living. In the early 1940s, Parks became active in the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), serving as its secretary and teaching young people about their rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Alabama

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