Obama, Congress unveil new Rosa Parks statue at Capitol

President Barack Obama, accompanied by, from left, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., applaud at the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Obama joined members of Congress today to unveil a new statue of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. With the full-length statue placed in the Capitol Building's Statuary Hall, Parks takes her "rightful place among those who shaped this nation's course," Mr. Obama said.

The 9-foot statue shows Parks seated, commemorating the moment in December 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That moment sparked the historic Montgomery bus boycott, a critical part of the civil rights movement.

"That moment tells us something about how change happens or doesn't happen," Mr. Obama said at the unveiling. "The changes we make, or don't make... Rosa Parks tells us there's always something we can do. We all have responsibilities to ourselves and one another."

With the victory of the bus boycott, the president said, "the entire edifice of segregation, like the ancient walls of Jericho, began to slowly come tumbling down."

Parks, who died in 2005 at the age of 92, fought for civil rights before and after that pivotal moment on the bush, Mr. Obama noted. For about two decades, she worked for Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Parks is the first black woman to be honored with a full-length statue in Statuary Hall. In a bit of historic irony, the statue was placed in a spot formerly occupied by a statue of Robert E. Lee, which several months ago was moved to another location (though House Speaker John Boehner's office says the Lee statue wasn't moved for the Parks statue). The president said Parks' memory should be honored by carrying forward "the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction."