On Friday, U.S. Reps. Val Demings (D-Fla.) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla) introduced legislation to welcome a statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune to the U.S. Capitol. The statue will be the first statue of a Black American to represent a U.S. state in Statuary Hall.
What We Know:
- The U.S. Capitol hosts two statues donated by each state. Last year, Florida requested change to its representation, replacing a statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith (a Confederate general) with one of Dr. McLeod Bethune.
- Bethune, the child of a former slave, was an advisor to five U.S. presidents including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Calvin Coolidge. She was particularly close to Roosevelt who appointed her as director of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, where she worked to employ over 300,000 young people.
- The choice to submit her name and likeness for consideration was an easy one for her sponsors.
“Mary McLeod Bethune was the most powerful woman I can remember as a child. She has been an inspiration to me throughout my whole life,” — Rep. Demings
- Waltz praised Bethune for her steadfastness in education because she knew it led to a better quality of life.
- “Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s inspiration reaches much further than our Daytona Beach community and Florida. Bethune knew education is key to equality and to a better life for all,” Waltz said. “Bethune was a leader who worked hard every day to provide opportunities to those in our community and our country who didn’t have a voice. Her example and legacy should make all Floridians proud.”
- If passed, there would be a welcome ceremony for the statue at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda where it would be displayed for six months. After this display period, the statue would join the National Statuary Hall Collection.
The statue would be unveiled in 2021.