Jesse Jackson Jr. led the path for the new Rosa Parks statue
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org February 27, 2013 7:44PM
President Barack Obama applauds at the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Updated: April 1, 2013 12:07PM
Now that Jesse Jackson Jr. admits he misused campaign funds, the feds will strip the congressman of his ill-gotten gains.
What they won’t be able to do, however, is erase his footprints from the U.S. Capitol.
For instance, on Wednesday, Congress unveiled a statue of Rosa Parks that will grace the National Statuary Hall.
In 1955, Parks kicked the civil rights movement into full gear by refusing to give up her seat on a segregated city bus in Montgomery, Ala. Her defiance launched the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott and thrust the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the forefront of the civil rights crusade.
The rest is history.
But it took a Special Act of Congress for a statue of Parks to be included in the collection of sculptures of prominent Americans on display at the National Statuary Hall.
Jackson was the driving force behind that legislation.
On Oct. 26, 2005, Jackson introduced H.R. 4145, which directed the Joint Committee on the Library to obtain a statue of Parks and to place the statue in the United States Capitol in National Statuary Hall.
President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on Dec. 1.
Despite the role Jackson played in getting Congress to honor Parks with a statue, he wasn’t a part of the unveiling ceremony.
His father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who knew Parks personally, took his grandchildren, Jessica, 12, and Jesse Jackson III, 9, to the event.
The Rosa Parks statue is the first of an African-American female to be placed in the hall where statues of prominent Americans have been put on display since 1864.
Each state is allowed to contribute up to two statues to the National Statuary Hall collection, which now has 100 bronze and marble figures.
Only 38 statues are actually displayed inside the hall itself. The remaining statues are positioned in adjoining rooms.
Jackson was as passionate about getting the civil rights icon into the National Statuary Hall as he was about building a third airport.
Jackson’s constituents who visited him in D.C. likely got a tour of the ornately designed hall.
There, Jackson would have pointed out that the bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is dwarfed by the full-bodied statues of other history makers on display.
Last week, Jonathan Jackson circulated a copy of a speech Jesse Jr. supposedly wrote about the Rosa Parks statue before he left Congress on medical leave in June.
On Wednesday, Jesse Jr. declined to comment on this issue
Jackson’s five-page document goes through a litany of laws that were detrimental to black people passed by the House of Representatives between 1807 and 1857.
“In this room the Missouri Compromise of 1820 became law, which admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was passed in this room,” he wrote.
“Rosa Parks was carrying a lot of historic weight on her shoulders emanating from this room. I wanted her to desegregate this room and keep an eye on the others here who kept her legally segregated.”
During his remarks, President Barack Obama pointed out that Parks, who would have turned 100 this month, “was slight in stature but mighty in courage.”
“[I]n a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America and changed the world,” Obama said on Wednesday.
“The tired feet of those who walked the dusty roads of Montgomery helped a nation see that to which it had once been blind. It is because of these men and women that I stand here today.”
Obama didn’t mention Jesse Jr.’s role in leading the charge on Park’s behalf.
The president thanked “all persons, in particular, the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, both past and present, for making this moment possible.”
After the ceremony, the elder Jackson appeared on CNN. He didn’t say much about his son’s legal woes but he made the point he wanted to make.
The unveiling ceremony had a “little family touch to it,” he said, because it was his son’s legislation.