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Black educator Mary McLeod Bethune takes her place in Statuary Hall

Nancy Pelosi, Marco Rubio, Frederica Wilson, Val Demings around the statue
Jacquelyn Martin
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., second from left, gestures to Sen. Marco Rubio, D-Fla., as Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., and Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., center, react along with members of the Florida Congressional Delegation, during the unveiling of a state statue from Florida of Mary McLeod Bethune, in Statuary Hall, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

The statue of Mary McLeod Bethune is the first of a Black person to be unveiled in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.

On Wednesday, the first and only statue of an African American was unveiled in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. 

The statue of Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator, activist and founder of Bethune-Cookman University replaces one of a Confederate General. 

Sonya Poteat, a graduate of BCU, and teacher in Daytona Beach says she’s overwhelmed by the moment. 

Close-up of Mary McLeod Bethune Statue pin
Jacquelyn Martin
A woman wears a pin of Mary McLeod Bethune, during a statue unveiling ceremony in honor of Bethune in Statuary Hall, Wednesday, July 13, 2022, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Bethune, the founder of Bethune-Cookman University, was one of America’s most important educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the 20th century.

LISTEN: Interview with artist and statue designer Nilda Comas

“It just brought it back to life and it just really made me very proud to be here and to be a part of her legacy. I’m a student of Bethune Cookman, so I just really, it just did all that for me.”

Poteat comes from a long line of teachers and civil rights activists, all inspired by Bethune’s work in the community. 

“We are definitely a great people and this is such a great honor to be in the Capitol building in the greatest country in the world.”

The 11-foot tall statue of Bethune is made of marble and depicts her in her matriculation robes holding one of her favorite black roses. 

Along with making history as the first Black person to be represented in the hall, her statue is also one of only a few women on the hill.

At her feet an inscription of one of her favorite sayings, reads: “Invest in the human soul. Who knows? It might be a diamond in the rough.” 

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Mary McLeod Bethune statue outside a building

Danielle Prieur
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