Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune becomes first black person represented in Capitol’s Statuary Hall

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 3:57 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Florida made history in the nation’s capital Wednesday, July 13.

The state became the first to have a black person represent the state with one of its statues in the Capitol Building.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was the daughter of slaves, and the civil rights activist eventually became advisor to FDR.

Florida lawmakers said pointed to Bethune starting one of the first schools for black girls, and eventually setting standards for black colleges.

“I remember as a little girl, listening to my mother and my father talk about a black woman,” Rep. Val Demings, D-FL, said. “A woman who looked like us, who started a college.”

Bethune fought for racial and gender equality her entire life, and eventually became the highest-ranking black woman in the federal government. She was a leader of FDR’s unofficial “black caucus.”

“She made First Lady Elanor Roosevelt know that black lives matter,” Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-FL, said. “She made five presidents believe that black lives matter. She made America begin to learn that black lives matter.”

Each state has been invited to send two statues to Statuary Hall since 1864. The have been allowed to change their statue since 2000.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, said Bethune is not just a good representation of Florida, but a role model for all Americans.

“An American who refused to accept that her humble beginnings or the color of her skin were a limit on her dreams and on her destiny,” Rubio said.

Bethune replaces a previous Florida statue depicting Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith.

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