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 Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.
Rosa Parks Could Make History Again
By: Hazel Trice Edney
NNPA Washington Correspondent
Originally posted 11/7/2005

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Rosa Parks, who became the first woman to lie in state in the rotunda of the U. S. Capitol, may make history again. U. S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) have introduced bills that would erect a statue to Parks in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.

“Rosa was more than the ‘mother of the civil rights movement.’ Her dignified leadership inspired others to engage in courageous acts,” says Jackson in a statement:

“The young man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square [in China] , Nelson Mandela knew of her actions before he spent 27 years in a South Africa jail. She burst on the scene before Pope John Paul II was able to use his pontifical office to oppose communism. And when those in Eastern Europe struggling for independence from the Soviet Union sang, ‘We Shall Overcome,’ they were paying tribute to Rosa Parks.”

Jackson’s bill. H.R. 4145, was introduced Oct. 26, two days after Parks died of natural causes in her home in Detroit.

U. S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) has introduced a similar bill to memorialize Parks in the hall, established in 1864 from an old House chamber.

“It will emphasize, in no uncertain terms, the values that have broken down and the great contributions that African-Americans have made,” Kerry told the NNPA News Service. “Since she is the mother of the civil rights movement, it is appropriate for her to be there and it would be a wonderful statement to everyone in America.”

Parks is revered for her 1955 refusal to give up her Montgomery bus seat for a White man, the stance that fueled the modern-day civil rights movement with a bus boycott that lasted 382 days.

The statues in the Hall have been donated to honor persons viewed as notable. The Statuary Hall collection has 100 statues, two from each state. Fifty are in the Hall itself, others are distributed throughout corridors of the Capitol for aesthetics and to prevent too much weight in one area, according to the office of the House clerk. All of those honored are White; 92 men and eight women.

They are from various walks of life, including inventors, lawyers, orators, and politicians. Those memorialized in the collection from Parks’ native state of Alabama are General Joseph Wheeler, a senior Cavalry officer in the Confederate Army and member of Congress for 18 years and Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, also a former member of Congress, who served in the Confederate Congress, was a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army and a staff aid to Wheeler.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), a co-sponsor of the Kerry’s S. B. 1959, is the only Black member of the Senate. He notes how Parks’ actions would be the antithesis of many memorialized around her.

“Rosa Parks held no public office, but when the history of this country is written, her name and her legacy will be remembered long after the names of senators and presidents have been forgotten,” he says in a statement. “So it is only fitting that her cause, her beliefs and her struggles be immortalized in the Capitol alongside statues of the men whose hearts her actions helped change.”

Kerry introduced his bill Nov. 3, the day after Parks was laid to rest after nine days of tributes, including a seven-hour funeral in Detroit and flags flown at half-staff.

Though Parks received bipartisan support for her historic viewing in the rotunda, so far, co-sponsors of both Jackson’s and Kerry’s bills are mostly Democrats. Of 158 sponsors,
Jackson’s bill has 124 Democrats and 34 Republicans. All except one of Kerry’s six co-sponsors are Democrats. Still, he is optimistic.

“I believe it will pass. I am very optimistic about it. I can’t think of a person more deserving,” Kerry says. “Rosa Parks sat down so we could stand up, but not so we could stand still. The bus of prejudice still comes by and each time we have to decide whether to go quietly to the back, or by everyday acts of courage and conviction change the direction of our country. Every American needs to be reminded of her legacy, and one way to keep her legacy alive is to remind everyone who walks through the Capitol – schoolchildren, families, members of Congress and presidents – that she refused to go quietly to the back of the bus, and we need to follow her example.”

Her contributions are even beyond many who are already memorialized there, Jackson notes.

“Rosa Parks took the legal principle of ‘equal protection under the law’ for all Americans in the 1954 Brown decision and applied it to the public transportation – which eventually led to a 1964 Civil Rights Act, a 1965 Voting Rights Act and a 1968 Open Housing Act, all of which helped to build a more perfect union among the states and make America better.”

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