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Rosa Parks statue for Alabama State Capitol grounds gets final approval

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Rosa Parks statue for Alabama State Capitol grounds gets final approval

Dec 11, 2023 | 8:01 am ET
By Alander Rocha
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Rosa Parks statue for Alabama State Capitol grounds gets final approval
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Alabama state Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, stands in front of the full-sized working model of a Rosa Parks statue in Decatur, Georgia on Dec. 8, 2023, where the Alabama Women Statue Tribute Commission met. (Screenshot/Alabama Reflector)

The Alabama Women’s Tribute Statue Commission Friday approved the final design for a statue of Rosa Parks statue that will sit near the entrance of the Alabama State Capitol.

Several members of the commission traveled to sculptor Julia Knight’s studio in Decatur, Georgia to see the working model of the statue of the civil rights icon. Knight said that designing the statue has been a “labor of love.”

“I am feeling a little tired, but I’m also feeling a little sad that now I’m going to let go of Rosa,” Knight said.

Commission members, present both in Georgia and virtually, praised the 15-foot model of the statue. It shows Parks stepping up on a raised platform, looking forward with her coat blowing in the wind. She will face South Bainbridge St. at an angle towards the steps leading up to the Capitol, allowing visitors to see her as they walk up.

Parks will be the first woman depicted on the Alabama State Capitol grounds.

Tracy Morant Adams, a Birmingham banker and member of the commission, said the statue captures Parks’ determination.

“When you look at [her braid], it is very detailed in the back, and then also the momentum, the movement of the coat of the cult shows progression. I think that you capture that quite well,” she said.

Annie Butrus, a Birmingham-based painter and member of the commission who attended the meeting virtually, said that Knight accomplished “a nearly impossible feat of creating this incredibly powerful yet delicate” design.

“I love the way you’ve modeled her feet, that really shows the strength and the determination, and the absolute assurance of where she was heading,” Butrus added.

Adams agreed.

“Just from looking here — it seems absolutely beautiful and you’re right, Annie, regarding her stance — her feet so firmly planted with so much power. I see power there. It’s beautiful,” Adams said.

The commission is also tasked with erecting a Helen Keller statue on the Capitol grounds. The Keller statue will be to the left of the back entrance, facing the current statehouse. That building is expected to be demolished after a new statehouse is completed sometime in the next three years. It is expected to be replaced by green space.

The statues are expected to cost about $611,000. The commission has raised about $700,000 for the statues. Remaining money will pay for any additional costs.

The Parks statue was funded in part by a $300,000 grant from the Alabama Power Foundation. The grant cannot be used for the Keller statue but will likely be used for ongoing maintenance on the Parks’ statue.

Locations for Helen Keller and Rosa Parks statues on Alabama State Capitol grounds unveiled

Funding for the Keller statue, expected to cost almost $300,000 ($245,000 for the sculptor and $50,000 for site preparation), was not clear earlier this year.

In the spring, the Alabama Legislature approved HB 125, a supplemental appropriations bill sponsored by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville, and spearheaded by Hall that allocated $200,000 towards the Keller statue. The commission is also accepting donations for the statue.

Parks, a longtime civil rights activist, was arrested on Dec. 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. Parks’ arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, considered the start of the modern civil rights movement.

Montgomery’s Court Square, where Parks caught the bus on Dec. 1, 1955, features a life-size statue of Parks. A statue of Parks also resides in the U.S. Capitol.

The Alabama Women’s Tribute Statue Commission was formed in 2019 to plan and erect statues of Rosa Parks and Helen Keller on the grounds of the Alabama State Capitol. The commission consists of six members, and is chaired by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville.

The statue will be cast at a foundry, which could take six months to complete the statue. It could be unveiled by the middle of next year, though it is not known when it will be ready for installation.

“She is going to just be this beacon of feminine strength. It’s just great,” said Butrus.