Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, an education pioneer, will make history next year when a statue of her is unveiled in the United States Capitol in 2022. It will be the first state-commissioned statue of a Black person in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall. Edmund Kirby, a Confederate general, will be her replacement.
Bethune is dressed in a cap and gown with a pearl necklace, clutching a black rose in one hand and a walking stick in the other, and stands in front of a stack of books with a grin on her face in the 11-foot larger-than-life marble statue.
The 6,000-pound monument was first displayed in Bethune’s home state of Florida, where it will be on display for many months at Daytona Beach State College’s News-Journal Center before moving to the nation’s capital in early 2022, according to Florida Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
Bethune was the daughter of formerly enslaved Africans and accomplished a lot in her life, including founding the National Council of Negro Women. She also served as an advisor to several US presidents and founded a boarding school for Black children in Daytona Beach, which ultimately became Bethune-Cookman University, a historically Black institution.
Through years of funding, the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Initiative was vital in getting this project off the ground. The fund’s board treasurer, Bob Lloyd, told CNN that the organization had received around $800,000 in individual donations. The funds were used to fund a marble statue and a bronze duplicate for a new riverfront park in Daytona Beach.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to my many friends with whom I’ve collaborated for years in order to get at this historic time. Dr. Bethune symbolizes all that is great about Florida. “Floridians and all Americans may be proud to have the great educator and civil rights icon representing them,” Castor added.
“I’m delighted she’s getting the accolades she deserves here in Florida before she proceeds to the United States Capitol, where she’ll be honored and recognized by all of America.”
Nilda Comas reportedly fashioned the memorial from the largest and last piece of statuary marble from Michelangelo’s quarry in Italy. Comas is the first Hispanic master sculptor to construct a statue for the National Statuary Hall State Collection, having been chosen from 1,600 candidates.