Rosa Parks is now the first black woman to have a full-length statue in the US National Statuary Hall, with congressional leaders joining more than 50 of her relatives at the Capitol Wednesday for the unveiling. Parks is one of the most recognizable icons in the Civil Rights Movement, well-known for her role in the start of the 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott. The United States Postal Services honored Parks with a commemorative stamp earlier this month, on what would have been her 100th birthday. Parks passed away in 2005, but continues to be remembered for her actions in Montgomery and beyond.
“This statute stands as a commitment to remembering, and more importantly, emulating Rosa Parks,” House Speaker John Boehner said before introducing President Obama during the unveiling ceremony. Obama focused not only on Parks’ stand in Montgomery, but her lifetime of achievements on behalf of social justice.
“She defied the odds, and she defied injustice,” Obama told the crowd. “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 changed the world.”
Years before she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, Parks served as a secretary for the local NAACP, pushing for equality for African-Americans and women before the Civil Rights Movement reached the national stage. Her arrest on Dec. 1, 1955 was just a part of a life devoted to promoting equality.
“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day,” Parks wrote in her autobiography My Story. “I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
More than 50 years later, the life-size statue depicts Parks sitting on that bus, a symbol of her well-earned prominence, as well as the legendary moment in black history.