Bravery, tenacity and maybe a little of her own stubbornness led Rosa Parks to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus on a cold December day in 1955. Almost sixty years after Parks’ act became the leading edge of the Civil Rights movement, she will be honored with a statue of her likeness on Capitol Hill.
Rosa Parks’ statue will be included in the Capitol Art Collection on the Capitol grounds. The statue will stand among other noted American figures including Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and founding father Alexander Hamilton.
Often referred to as “the first lady of Civil Rights,” seamstress Rosa Parks’ defiance of segregation transportation laws by her refusal to give up her seat in the colored section of the bus to a White passenger and her subsequent arrest triggered a boycott of the Montgomery Bus system led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The statue, commissioned by an act of Congress in 2005, will be the first full-sized statue of an African-American woman to be added to the Capitol grounds. A bust of African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth was unveiled on the Hill in 2009.
The National Endowment for the Arts oversaw the design competition for Parks’ statue as a joint partnership with the Joint Committee on the Library and the Office of the Architect of the Capitol. The winning artist was awarded $250,000 to complete a bronze statue and pedestal.
“In taking a stand for justice and equality, Rosa Parks stirred the conscience of our country in a way that changed American history. She has become such an enduring symbol of moral courage that it is only fitting that she be recognized by Congress with a sculpture in Statuary Hall,” National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia said in a press release.
Parks is being commemorated in numerous ways this year. In light of her centennial birthday celebration on Feb. 4, the United States Post Office honored Parks with a Rosa Parks Forever stamp featuring a gouache painting based on a 1950s photograph of Parks donning a green hat and matching suit. The Parks stamp is one of three stamps in a Civil Rights set celebrating freedom, courage and equality.
The statue of Rosa Parks will be unveiled later this year.