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Dr. Mary Bethune, a pioneering civil rights activist from Florida, is finally getting her due. The educator, who opened a school for Black children in 1904, will be honored as the first Black woman with a statue in the United States’ Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. It follows the statue’s unveiling in her home state of Florida.
The statue of Dr. Bethune in the nation’s capital will replace a statue of a former confederate general. The iconic Statuary Hall holds two statues of renowned citizens from each state. Dr. Bethune was nominated for the honor by Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
“Dr. Bethune embodies the very best of the Sunshine State — Floridians and all Americans can take great pride in being represented by the great educator and civil rights icon,” noted US Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida, who attended the Florida unveiling.
A trailblazer, educator, an presidential advisor
Dr. Bethune, the daughter of two slaves, founded the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls in 1904. The school later transitioned into Bethune-Cookman University, a Historically Black College and University. Dr. Bethune also fought on behalf of womens’ rights, campaigning for voter registration after the suffrage movement won women the right to vote in 1920.
Dr. Bethune also served as an educational advisor to five Presidents. She served as the director of the National Youth Administration’s Office of Negro Affairs under President Franklin Roosevelt, who, along with his wife Eleanor, considered her a friend.
“Dr. Bethune was an amazing trailblazer,” said Nancy Lohman, Board president of the Dr. Mary Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc, in a statement to CNN. “She fought for African American rights, women’s rights. When she saw a problem, she got involved to help create a solution.”
The statue was created by a Latina woman, Nilda Comas. The master sculptor spent two years painstakingly creating the iconic statue, which will make its way to Washington in 2022.