1. First Steps

In March of 2016, Gov. Rick Scott signed a law to replace the statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, which had been donated to the U.S. Capitol for display in Statuary Hall in 1922, with a new “Great Floridian.”

The search for a new sculpture was conducted by the Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, which reviewed 3,587 submissions. The list was narrowed to 130 eligible names, including Mary McLeod Bethune, who received 1,233 votes, easily outpacing the second-place subject which received 447 votes.

  1. Statuary Hall
Occupying the space originally used as the chamber for the House of Representatives, the National Statuary Hall was created after Congress invited each of the states to contribute two statues of prominent citizens for permanent display. Initially all of the contributed statues were housed in the space, as the collection grew more space was needed. In 1933 Congress authorized the display of the statues throughout the Capitol. It is one of the most popular rooms in the U.S. Capitol Building, with thousands of visitors passing through every day.
  1. Fundraising Effort
In late 2018, the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Statuary Fund, Inc., was formed to raise private funds for the statuary project. Nearly 400 individual donors have contributed to the effort. In addition to raising funds for the marble statue which will be placed in National Statuary Hall, the Board expanded the fundraising effort and commissioned a bronze statue of Mary Mcleod Bethune from the same maquette to be displayed in Riverfront Esplanade Park in downtown Daytona Beach, Florida. They broadened their vision and fundraising to include a feature-length documentary and K-12 curriculum module, the sponsorship of five B-CU graduates to perform at the blessing ceremony of the statue in Pietrasanta, Italy and the temporary exhibit of the marble statue in Daytona Beach, Florida prior to the permanent placement in the U.S. Capitol.
  1. Michelangelo’s Gift
Cut from the Italian Alps and quarries above Pietrasanta, Italy, the piece of marble used by artist Nilda Comas represents the largest – and last – piece of statuary marble from the quarry. The marble from the quarries is the same used by Michelangelo to create his famous statue of David. It is said Michelangelo himself opened the caves in the mountains that had been abandoned by the ancient Romans to find the marble.
  1. From Marble to Masterpiece
Artist Nilda Comas is the first Hispanic Master Sculptor selected to create a statue for the National Statuary Hall State Collection. She was selected after a national search and was chosen from a field of 1,600 applicants. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the New York Academy and studied at the Accademia di Belli Arte in Carrara, Italy. Comas began with intensive research at the Congressional Archives, the State of Florida Archives and Bethune-Cookman University.
  1. The Pride of Florida
The finished statue will be displayed at the News-Journal Center in Daytona Beach before departing for permanent placement in the U.S. Capitol in late 2021. The Mary McLeod Bethune statue will represent Florida in the National Statuary Hall State Collection along with the Sunshine State’s other statue, one of Dr. John Gorrie, considered the father of refrigeration and air-conditioning  who has represented Florida since 1914. The Capitol unveiling is expected to take place in early 2022. A bronze replica will be displayed in the Riverfront Esplanade Park in Daytona Beach also in early 2022.

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