DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A marble statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was unveiled in Daytona Beach on Monday. As first reported by WKMG News 6, the statue will soon head to the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall where it will represent Florida.
Mary Bethune fought for equal rights and founded Bethune-Cookman University. She will be the first Black person to represent a state in the hall.
Standing at 11-feet tall, weighing four tons and made using marble from the same Tuscan quarry that Michelangelo used, the statue was finally unveiled in her home of Daytona Beach. The ceremony at the News-Journal Center was just down the road from the university — a school Bethune created with $1.50 over 100 years ago, giving Black students a safe place to learn.
“She taught us how to live in harmony. No. 2, she taught us how to achieve despite obstacles,” Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry said.
The statue was created in Italy by sculptor Nilda Comas.
It will replace the statue of a Confederate general in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. The statue of the general will return to Florida’s capitol.
“She gave her life to make things different and better,” Evelyn Bethune said.
Evelyn Bethune was one of Mary Bethune’s three living grandchildren in the crowd at the celebration Monday.
“When I look at her statue it’s like the realization of her faith. Bethune-Cookman has that same faith. To be able to build a college on a garbage dump is an outstanding accomplishment,” she said.
It took the foundation behind the statue four years to go through approval processes, fundraising and the statue’s creation.
Mary Bethune was born to slaves and became the first person in her family to learn to read or write.
In addition to founding Bethune-Cookman, she later became an advisor to four U.S. presidents and fought for issues like opening a beach and hospital for Black people in Volusia County.
“Her essence is in the fabric of American culture. It’s not Black culture, it’s American culture,” Evelyn Bethune said.
The statue will be at the News-Journal Center through the end of December for anyone who wants to it before it’s brought to the U.S. Capitol. You are asked to reserve a time slot to see it by clicking here.