Obama dedicates Rosa Parks statue

Feb. 27, 2013 at 2:54 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- President Obama was joined by House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders Wednesday in unveiling a statue of Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol.

On Dec. 1, 1955, Parks, then a 42-year-old seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated Montgomery, Ala., bus setting off a 385-day municipal bus boycott that fueled the fledging civil rights movement led by a young 26-year-old Baptist preacher named Martin Luther King Jr.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in public transportation the next year.

"Rosa Parks' singular act of disobedience launched a movement," Obama 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."

Parks died in October 2005 at age 92 and her body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the first woman so honored.

The 9-foot tall bronze statue – by California sculptor Eugene Daub -- of a seated Parks clutching a purse was installed in Statuary Hall, part of a collection of nearly 100 statues in and around the U.S. Capitol. Boehner noted her statue was the first of an African-American woman in Statuary Hall.

"Rosa Parks held no political office. She possessed no fortune; lived her life far from the formal seats of power. And yet today, she takes her rightful place among those who've shaped this nation's course," said Obama.

Parks was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the highest ranking African-American member of Congress, called Parks "the First Lady of Civil Rights," and noted that 2013 was the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

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