U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14) helped unveil the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune statue for the first time in Florida and the U.S. since arriving from Italy. The Dr. Bethune statue will soon represent the State of Florida in the United States Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection. Dr. Bethune will be the first African American to represent any state in the collection. Dr. Bethune takes the place of an obscure confederate general who has represented Florida in the state collection since 1922 and will be one of only a few women to represent a state in the 100-statue collection. The confederate statue that has represented Florida since the Jim Crow era was removed from the Capitol in the beginning of September.
“Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune is an outstanding representative of the State of Florida. The long-awaited arrival of Florida’s newest statue in the United States Capitol is now on track for early 2022 after her visit to Daytona Beach where she founded Bethune-Cookman University and embarked on her impactfull career on equal rights, education, the advancement of veterans and so much more. I am grateful to the many friends who I’ve worked alongside for years in order to reach this momentous moment. Dr. Bethune embodies the very best of the Sunshine State – Floridians and all Americans can take great pride in being represented by the great educator and civil rights icon. This exhibit in Daytona Beach – Dr. Bethune’s home and the home of Bethune-Cookman University – provides an important and special opportunity to learn about Dr. Bethune’s life, and I am glad that she is being rightfully recognized here in Florida before she travels to her place of honor and recognition by all of America in the U.S. Capitol.”
In attendance at the unveiling with Rep. Castor were many of the partners in the years long journey – master sculptor Nilda Comas, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry, Bethune-Cookman University President Dr. Hiram Powell, Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Committee Chair Nancy Lohman and Vice Chair Bob Lloyd, State Senator Perry Thurston, Florida Cultural Affairs Director Sandy Shaughnessy, Rep. Michael Waltz, US Capitol Historical Society President and CEO Jane Campbell, and many proud BCU alumni and friends.
A temporary exhibit in Daytona is open through early December where visitors will be able to see the statue and learn about Dr. Bethune’s life and legacy for free seven days a week from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Daytona State College’s News-Journal Center, located at 221 N. Beach St.
Bethune was born on a farm near Maysville, South Carolina, in 1875. She was the 15th child of former slaves.
In 1904, she created Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls.
Bethune's impact left a mark in Florida but also on Black people and women at large.
Bethune, the daughter of formerly enslaved people, was an influential educator and activist who — among her many accomplishments — founded the National Council of Negro Women, advised multiple U.S. presidents and created a boarding school for Black children that would later become Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.