For the first time, the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall has added a Black American to the collection of Americans immortalized in stone.
The Hill reported that on Wednesday, the House of Representatives celebrated the addition of Mary McLeod Bethune’s statue.
“Dr. Bethune epitomizes the values we hold dear,” Florida Democrat Rep. Kathy Castor said. “We lift her up today at a time of competing ideologies to help heal and unify through her example.”
Bethune, born in 1875 in South Carolina, was the 15th child of her enslaved mother and father. She would go on to move to Florida after her marriage, where she would champion racial and gender oppression. Bethune opened in 1904 the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, which has since become Bethune-Cookman University.
Among her notable achievements, Bethune founded Daytona’s first Black hospital as well as the National Council of Negro Women. She was elected vice president of the NAACP in 1940, and would go on to advise a number of U.S. presidents.
Bethune-Cookman University President Lawrence Drake said of Bethune that she had taken her “rightful place” among other distinguished Americans in the Hall.
“No one,” Drake said, “could have predicted that this daughter of slaves would create a university, found a powerful political organization, advise presidents and inspire generations. Her hopeful vision, her hard work, her generous spirit and her deep faith made a lasting and positive mark on our country and the world.”
The 11-foot tall statue of Bethune shows her smiling in a cap and gown, holding a black rose.
Every state donates two statues to the Capitol. Florida requested to change its former donation of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to Bethune. Her statue was sculpted by Nilda Comas.