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'Larger than life' civil rights icon honored with statue in Capitol

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    Obama unveils a statue of Rosa Parks

Obama unveils a statue of Rosa Parks 01:22

Story highlights

  • Rosa Parks is first African-American woman to be honored with a statue in Statuary Hall
  • President Obama praised Parks' lasting effects on the lives of all Americans
  • Her refusal to give her seat up acted as a catalyst of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Had it not been for Rosa Parks and others of her era, President Barack Obama said he wouldn't be unveiling a bronze statue of the civil rights icon in the U.S. Capitol.

"We can do no greater honor ... than to carry forward her principle of courage born of conviction," Obama said at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Fifty-eight years after she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks became the first African-American woman to be honored with a full length statue in National Statuary Hall.

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The statue shows Parks sitting with her hands folded neatly in her lap, reminiscent of the day of her arrest.

Her action echoed Martin Luther King Jr's notion that civil disobedience could be effective in challenging segregation.

"The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today," Obama said. "It is because of them that our children grow up in a land more free and more fair. A land truer to its founding creed, and that is why this statue belongs in this hall."

    Obama was joined at the unveiling by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

    Despite rising acrimony between Obama and congressional Republicans over the forced government spending cuts set to go into effect on Friday, Obama kept his remarks focused on Parks' legacy. He praised her courage and the lasting effects of her actions. Congressional leaders did the same.

    The National Statuary Hall Collection consists of two sculptures gifted from each of the 50 states. They honor distinguished people throughout U.S. history, including several presidents.

    Parks' statue was authorized by a special act of Congress that was introduced two days after her death in 2005.