The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

February 27, 2013

Rosa Parks statue set to be unveiled at Capitol



WASHINGTON (AP) — Rosa Parks is famous for her 1955 refusal to give up her seat on a city bus in Alabama to a white man, but there's plenty about the rest of her experiences that she deliberately withheld from her family.

While Parks and her husband, Raymond, were childless, her brother, the late Sylvester McCauley, had 13 children. They decided Parks' nieces and nephews didn't need to know the horrible details surrounding her civil rights activism, said Rhea McCauley, Parks' niece.

"They didn't talk about the lynchings and the Jim Crow laws," said McCauley, 61, of Orlando, Fla. "They didn't talk about that stuff to us kids. Everyone wanted to forget about it and sweep it under the rug."

Parks' descendants now have a chance to be first-hand witnesses as their late matriarch makes more history, this time becoming the first black woman to be honored with a full-length statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall. The statue of Parks joins a bust of another black woman, abolitionist Sojourner Truth, which sits in the Capitol Visitors Center.

President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner are among the dignitaries taking part in the unveiling Wednesday. McCauley said more than 50 of Parks' relatives traveled to Washington for the ceremony.

In a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus in segregated Montgomery, Ala. She was arrested, touching off a bus boycott that stretched over a year.

Jeanne Theoharis, author of the new biography "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks," said Parks was very much a full-fledged civil rights activist, yet her contributions have not been treated like those of other movement leaders, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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