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.