Rosa Parks: First Statue of African-American Female to Grace Capitol

VIDEO: President Obama unveils Rosa Parks statue in Capitol building.
ABCNEWS.com

Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer, made history again today by becoming the first African American woman to have her likeness depicted in the Capitol's Statuary Hall.

Parks' monument is a part of the Capitol Art Collection which hosts 180 pieces of art; her statue will stand among nine other females featured in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Busts of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sojourner Truth have been added to the Capitol Art Collection but Rosa Parks will be the first full-bodied statue of an African American featured in the Capitol. Her statue is expected to lay the ground for other African American statues to be added to the hall, including Frederick Douglass.

Eva Malecki, communications officer for the Architect of the Capitol, explains to ABC News that though Parks' statue will stand among those included in the National Statuary Hall, to date there are no African-American statues memorialized in the Statuary Hall Collection.

The collection honors men and women who are "illustrious for their historic renown," according to its founding legislation. Today Parks joined the ranks of those honored as her monument was unveiled in Washington, D.C.

The collection in the United States Capitol Building is comprised of statues donated by individual states to honor persons notable in their history. The creation of the collection was authorized by the Congress in 1864 and allows for each state to contribute two statues of choice.

Parks, who is most famous for her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white male in 1955, has been honored in this country before. The bus that she rode was memorialized and now sits in the Henry Ford Museum near Detroit. Thousands of visitors who were inspired by her message board the bus to commemorate the life of Parks, who would be 100 years old today.

In 1884, Rep. Justin Morrill suggested utilizing the vacated House chamber between the Capitol Rotunda and the new House chamber to host statues to honor prominent figures from every state. As time passed the Hall became overcrowded, calling for Congress to pass a resolution in 1933 allowing for the dispersion of statues in other rooms and wings of the Capitol.

So how did Rosa Parks make it into the big house?

Her monument was commissioned by Congress which then directly provided a commission to the artist. Statues included in the Statuary Hall Collection, however, have to go through a more rigorous process.

Proceedings for the donation of a statue come as a gift of a state, not an individual or group.

The process begins in the state legislature where an enactment of a resolution names the citizen to be commemorated and cites his or her qualifications and prominence.

A committee or commission to represent the state in selecting the sculptor is then specified, and finally a method for obtaining the funds to carry the resolution is discussed.

Though the process of honoring people in Statuary Hall dates back to the 19th century, it was only recently that the honorees have diversified.

The Hall mainly features white males but since 2000 the number of female and minority honorees has risen. Sakakawea, Helen Keller, Sarah Winnemucca, Po'pay and Washakie have all contributed to diversifying the Hall.

See What President Obama Said About The Monument HERE

Placed in 2009

PHOTO: Blind attendees admire a statue of Helen Keller after it's unveiling ceremony in the rotunda on Oct. 7, 2009.
Tom Williams/Getty Images
Helen Keller

According to the Architect of the Capitol Website, Helen Adams Keller was born on June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, Alabama. When she was 19 months old, an illness (possibly scarlet fever or meningitis), left her deaf, blind and unable to speak. From her childhood teacher and life-long companion, Annie Sullivan, she learned to communicate by touch, Braille, and the use of a special typewriter; in 1890 a teacher from a Boston school for the deaf taught her to speak. She attended the Cambridge School for Young Ladies and then entered Radcliffe College, from which she graduated with honors in 1904. Settling outside Boston, Keller and Sullivan collaborated on Helen's autobiography, The Story of My Life. Soon, encouraged by Sullivan's husband, Keller embraced a variety of social causes, including woman suffrage. She lectured and wrote in support of these causes as well as to call attention to the plight of the physically handicapped. Following World War II, she and her secretary, Polly Thompson, traveled abroad to support the blind. She died on June 1, 1968, in Westport, Connecticut; her ashes are interred at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Read More Here

Placed in 2005

PHOTO: Artist Benjamin Victor, 26, is congratulated by Louise Tannheimer, 86, Quechan tribe, for his achievement in sculpting the statue of Sarah Winnemucca that was added to the Capitol's collection. Tannheimer is a decedent of Sarah Winnemucca.
Tom Williams/Getty Images
Sarah Winnemucca

According to the Architect of the Capitol Website, Sarah Winnemucca (1844–1891) was a member of the Paiute tribe born in what would later become the state of Nevada. She was the daughter of the Chief Winnemucca and granddaughter of Chief Truckee. Her Paiute name was Thocmetony (or Tocmetoni), which means "shellflower"; it is not known why or when she took the name Sarah. Having a great facility with languages, she served as an interpreter and negotiator between her people and the U.S. Army. In 1878 when the Bannock Indians revolted and were being pursued by the U.S. Army under General Oliver Howard's command, Sarah volunteered for a dangerous mission. Locating her father's band being forcibly held by the Bannocks, she secretly led them away to army protection in a three-day ride over 230 miles of rugged terrain with little food or rest.

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Placed in 2000

PHOTO: A statue of Chief Washakie was unveiled in Rotunda of the Capitol on Sept. 7, 2000.
Bill Clark/Getty Images
Washakie

According to the Architect of the Capitol Website, originally named Pinaquana, Washakie was born around 1800 in his father's Salish (or Flathead) tribe; he was given the name Washakie when he joined his mother's Shoshone tribe. He became a renowned warrior and in approximately 1840 united several Shoshone bands.

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Placed in 2005

PHOTO: Sen. Pete Domenici (R), R-NM, at the dedication ceremony of the statue of Pueblo leader Po'pay in the Rotunda of Capitol.
Chris Maddaloni/Roll Call/Getty Images
Po'pay

According to the Architect of the Capitol Website, Po'pay was born around 1630 in the San Juan Pueblo, in what is now the state of New Mexico; his given name, Popyn, means "ripe squash" in the Tewa language. As an adult he became a religious leader and was responsible for healing as well as for his people's spiritual life.

Read More Here

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