At a dedication ceremony on Wednesday that was attended by dozens of Mrs. Parks’s relatives, President Obama and Congressional leaders paid tribute to Mrs. Parks, whose act of defiance and work in the civil rights movement helped spur desegregation across the country and the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Almost simultaneously with the ceremony, the landmark law was facing a legal challenge at the Supreme Court, across the street from the Capitol.
“This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight of stature but mighty in courage,” Mr. Obama said.
The statue of Mrs. Parks captures her waiting to be arrested on Dec. 1, 1955, after she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger on a crowded segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. She is seated, dressed in a heavy wool coat and clutching her purse as she looks out of an unseen window waiting for the police.
“In a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America and change the world,” Mr. Obama said.
He chronicled how Mrs. Parks, despite having held no elected office, lacking wealth and living far from the seat of power, touched off a movement that made it possible for him to become president.
“And today, she takes her rightful place among those who shaped this nation’s course,” Mr. Obama said.
“We do well by placing a statue of her here,” he added. “But we can do no greater honor than to remember and to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction.”
The statue of Mrs. Parks will sit in Statuary Hall, where lawmakers frequently pass on their way to vote, and where, Speaker John A. Boehner noted, she sits in the gaze of Jefferson Davis, the Mississippi senator who was appointed president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
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