This week, a new figure joined the statuary pantheon in the Capitol.
Political leaders of all stripes joined civil rights activists at the unveiling of a new statue depicting Rosa Parks.
Parks will remain in National Statuary Hall, although the statue is part of the general Capitol Art Collection, as mandated by the legislation that initiated the creation of the statue. The addition of this work marks the first inclusion of a full-length statue of an African American (there are several busts) in the Capitol Art Collection.
While we’ve generally covered Parks through an African American history lens, she serves as a bridge from February (African American History Month) to March (Women’s History Month). The story of America is still so often told through the stories of the leaders, the men, and the politicians, but so often the stories of the followers, the women, and the citizens are the ones that energize new generations and teach us about the fabric of the nation. For instance, discussion of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which famously resulted from Parks’ refusal to change seats, frequently centers on the way the boycott invigorated a more national civil rights activism and brought leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. into the spotlight. All true, valid, and important. But the success of the boycott rode on the backs, and in the shoes, of Birmingham’s black women, who walked miles to their jobs rather than take buses. Without their determination and sacrifice, the civil rights movement would have needed a different catalyst.
In a blog dedicated to Congressional and Capitol history, we too tend to focus on the leaders who seem to shape our world. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should forget the regular folks whose daily decisions can change the course of our history and the face of our culture.
For more of our coverage of both black and women’s history, click on the categories tags in the byline at the top of this post.