Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor is set to lead the unveiling of the Mary McLeod Bethune statue at the U.S. Capitol this upcoming Wednesday.
The ceremony will celebrate the new statue, which portrays Bethune as a representative of the State of Florida in the National Statuary Hall State Collection. Notably, she will be the first African American to represent any state in the 100-statue collection, and one of only a few women to represent a state.
“Floridians and Americans deserve a symbol of unity and progress — one where our dynamic and diverse state can resolve to move forward together in our democratic tradition,” Castor said in a statement. “I am grateful for the opportunity to lead the ceremony after her unveiling to welcome Dr. Bethune to her honored place in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol. I am looking forward to celebrating with all of my partners who have worked tirelessly to bring this day to fruition.”
Bethune will take the place of an obscure confederate general who has represented Florida in the state collection since 1922.
“Dr. Bethune’s story and legacy is one that resonates with so many Floridians and Americans, and countless generations of visitors will now learn about her life’s work as an educator, Civil Rights leader and force for good,” Castor said. “This ‘labor of love’ by Florida’s Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund and Master Sculptor Nilda Comas, provides for a symbol of unity, hope and reconciliation for a state and a country that continues to grapple with racial justice and equal rights for all.”
Bethune became one of the most important Black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials in the 1900s. The daughter of former slaves, Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, setting educational standards for today’s HBCUs. She also served as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a leader in FDR’s unofficial “black cabinet.”
“I am grateful for all who have worked with me towards this day and this dream and encourage all of our neighbors to tune into the ceremony on Wednesday. In the days ahead, I look forward to welcoming families and schools to Washington to see the statue in person,” Castor continued.