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Rosa Parks honored with statue (+video)

Politicians unveiled a new statue of Rosa Parks in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Parks, the woman whose refusal to give up her bus seat spurred a year-long bus boycott in 1955, is the first black woman to be honored with a full-sized statue in Statuary Hall. 

By Suzanne GamboaAssociated Press / February 27, 2013

President Obama (l.) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (r.) applaud as they look at the statue of Rosa Parks after its unveiling in the US Capitol in Washington, Feb. 27, 2013.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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WASHINGTON

The nation's most powerful politicians honored Rosa Parks on Wednesday by unveiling her statue in a permanent place in the US Capitol. President Obama praised Parks as an enduring reminder of what true leadership requires, "no matter how humble or lofty our positions."

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Parks became the first black woman to be depicted in a full-length statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. A bust of another black woman, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, sits in the Capitol Visitors Center.

"We do well by placing a statue of her here," Mr. Obama said. "But we can do no greater honor to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction."

The unveiling brought Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and other congressional leaders together in the midst of a fierce standoff over automatic spending cuts set to go into effect on Friday.

Setting that conflict aside, Obama and Mr. Boehner stood on either side of a blue drape, tugging and pulling in opposite directions on a braided cord until the cover fell to reveal a 2,700-pound bronze statue of a seated Parks, her hair in a bun under a hat, her hands crossed over her lap and clasping her purse. Obama gazed up at it, and touched its arm.

At the same time across the street, conservative Supreme Court justices voiced skepticism about the relevance of the Voting Rights Act, one of the major legislative victories of the movement to which Parks devoted her life.

Parks's civil rights movement colleague Jesse Jackson, whose son former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. sponsored the bill to place Parks's statue in the Capitol, said Parks "fought her way into history," and on three occasions, took literacy tests required of blacks who wanted to vote. She passed all three, Jackson said.

Parks's statue is positioned between those of suffragist Frances E. Willard and John Gorrie, considered the father of refrigeration and air conditioning. Boehner, R-Ohio, pointed out that Parks' gaze seems to fall directly onto a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

"Here in the hall, she casts an unlikely silhouette — unassuming in a lineup of proud stares, challenging all of us once more to look up and to draw strength from stillness," Boehner said.

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