Mary McLeod Bethune, a 20th-century civil and human rights leader, founder of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and historic government official, was honored throughout D.C. over the past week, including the installation Wednesday of a statue of her likeness in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statutory Hall.
Bethune is the first Black to have their likeness installed by a state in the National Statutory Hall. The legislature of Florida and then-Gov. Rick Scott led the effort to have Bethune represent the state in the U.S. Capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) were among the speakers at Wednesday’s unveiling.
Ashley Robertson Preston, a Howard University scholar and expert on Bethune who attended the unveiling, said the civil rights icon defined her times.
“She was the Oprah of her time,” Preston said, WTOP reported. “She was the Booker T. Washington of her time. She was the Martin Luther King of her time.”
On Sunday, Asbury United Methodist Church in northwest Washington held a special service honoring Bethune, who joined Asbury on Oct. 17, 1937, shortly after being appointed as the director of the Negro Affairs Division of the National Youth Administration by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The keynote speaker for the Sunday service was Dr. Sheila Flemming, an expert on Bethune’s life and founder/president of the Black Rose Foundation for Children.
“Dr. Bethune loved the church and believed that God has a special mission for her life,” Flemming said in her message. “If she was living today, she would tell us to continue to fight the good fight.”
Later that day, members of the D.C.-area Bethune-Cookman University alumni association and the general public met at the Bethune statue in northeast Washington to continue their praise of her.
On Tuesday, National Park Service rangers led by John T. Fowler led tourists to sites such as Bethune’s house in Logan Circle, Asbury, and the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women, an organization she founded.