WASHINGTON (RNS) – A bronze statue of civil rights heroine Rosa Parks was unveiled at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 27, a day for members of her African Methodist Episcopal Church to celebrate one of their own.
President Obama, capping an hourlong ceremony in Statuary Hall, recalled the desegregation of public buses in Montgomery, Ala., after a yearlong boycott that was sparked by Parks’ simple act of defiance: refusing to move to the back of the bus.
“And with that victory, the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho, began to slowly come tumbling down,” he said before hundreds gathered just outside the Capitol Rotunda.
As Parks was hailed for her civil rights achievements, members and leaders of her African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrated her assumption of a place among the monuments to American icons.
Parks was a stewardess who helped with Com-munion and baptisms in her local AME congregation in Detroit, as well as a deaconess, the highest position for a laywoman in the denomination. She died in 2005 at age 92.
“It’s special to us because the AME Church was founded, really, on issues of social justice and equality, and so her actions actually help us to keep that legacy alive even to this day,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, chairman of the AME Church’s Commission on Social Action.
Each state can send two statues of famous citizens for display in the Capitol, but the 2,700-pound Rosa Parks statue was commissioned by Congress — the first since 1873. At 9 feet tall, it is the first full-sized statue of an African-American in the Capitol complex. A bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been in the Rotunda since 1986.