WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Capitol has unveiled its first Black American statue, replacing the statue of a Confederate general. Mary McLeod Bethune’s statue was unveiled Wednesday. Bethune, a civil rights activist, was the founder of the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls, which in 1904 became Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.
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 statue represents the state of Florida.
Students, alumni and community members came together at the BCU Performing Arts Center in Daytona Beach to watch the unveiling ceremony on television Wednesday. The statue had been on display there, at the university, since October, 2021.
It took the foundation behind the statue four years to go through approval processes, fundraising and the statue’s creation.
Since 1864, each state has been able to send two statues to represent it in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall collection. Bethune’s statue is the first to represent a Black American in the collection.