With a caramel-colored statue of Rosa Parks to his right, President Barack Obama offered a moving tribute to the great civil rights icon in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.
“We do well by placing a statue of her here,” he intoned, “but we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.”
Parks’ statue in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall is the first full-height statue of an African- American woman in the Hall. There is a bust of legendary abolitionist Sojourner Truth in the building’s visitors’ center.
The president followed a speech by Speaker John Boehner, who sniffled through his remarks, and the ceremony was closed by House Chaplain Patrick Conroy and the U.S. Army Chorus, which performed a version of “America, the Beautiful.”
In his tribute, Obama not only recounted Parks’ role as a catalyst in the civil rights movement, but also cited examples of her rarely discussed militancy that was forged by her husband Raymond E.D. Nixon, and later encpuraged at the Highlander School in Monteagle, Tenn., where she was mentored by activies Septima Clark and Myles Horton.
Much of this militancy and rebelliousness is thoroughly captured in Jeanne Theoharis’ recent biography “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.”