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Rosa Parks statue to be unveiled in Capitol next week

February 22, 2013|By Richard Simon
  • Family members of Rosa Parks gather for the unveiling of a commemorative postage stamp issued to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.
Family members of Rosa Parks gather for the unveiling of a commemorative… (Carlos Osorio )

WASHINGTON -- Rosa Parks made history in 1955 by refusing to move to the back of the bus.  She will make history again next week when her statue is placed in the U.S. Capitol. 

It will be the first full-size statue of an African American in the Capitol collection of more than 180 statues, a popular tourist attraction.  There are busts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth. A statue of Frederick Douglass is expected to be added soon.

"It’s another breakthrough for someone who has made so many of them possible,’’ House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) of the Parks statue.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), for whom Parks worked, said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, "As humble as she was, she would be overwhelmed by the fact that there would be a statue in Statuary Hall in her honor.’’  

President Obama is due to attend the unveiling Wednesday in what congressional leaders describe as an occasion to "recount a watershed event in our history."

Eugene Daub was the sculptor, working with his partner, Rob Firmin, according to the Architect of the Capitol’s office. Officials declined to describe in advance of the ceremony how Parks is depicted. The bronze statue and its black granite pedestal are nearly 9 feet tall and weigh approximately 2,700 pounds.

Congress authorized the statue in 2005, shortly after the civil rights pioneer died and became the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol rotunda.

Hers was the first full-sized statue to be approved and funded by Congress since 1873. Most of the statues dispersed through the Capitol and visitor center have been provided by states to recognize figures in their history.

The U.S. Postal Service  issued a Rosa Parks "forever" stamp this month for what would have been her 100th birthday. In 1999, Parks was honored in the Capitol rotunda as a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award Congress can bestow.

Parks’ arrest for refusing to yield her seat to a white passenger led to a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery, Ala., bus system, led by King, and helped spark the civil rights movement.

richard.simon@latimes.com 

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