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Florida sends the first African American woman to the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall

Photo of the statue of Mary McLeod Bethune
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's office
The white marble statue of Mary McLeod Bethune was first unveiled in Italy, where it was carved.

On Wednesday, the first and only statue of an African American was unveiled in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. 

The statue of Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator, activist and founder of Bethune-Cookman University replaces one of a Confederate General. 

Sonya Poteat, a graduate of BCU, says she’s overwhelmed by the moment. 

“It just brought it back to life and it just really made me very proud to be here and to be a part of her legacy," says Poteat, a teacher in Daytona Beach. "I’m a student of Bethune Cookman, so I just really, it just did all that for me.”

Poteat comes from a long line of teachers and civil rights activists, all inspired by Bethune’s work in the community. 

“We are definitely a great people and this is such a great honor to be in the Capitol building in the greatest country in the world.”

The 11-foot tall statue of Bethune is made of marble and depicts her in her matriculation robes holding one of her favorite black roses. 

Along with making history as the first Black person to be represented in the hall, her statue is also one of only a few women on the hill.

At her feet an inscription of one of her favorite sayings, reads: “Invest in the human soul. Who knows? It might be a diamond in the rough.” 

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Danielle Prieur