US & Canada

Rosa Parks statue honours US civil rights legend

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Media captionUS President Obama: "She defied the odds, she defied injustice"

Late US civil rights leader Rosa Parks has been honoured with a commemorative statue in the US Capitol building in Washington DC.

Parks became an icon in 1955 after her arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat in Alabama to a white man.

"Today, she takes her rightful place among those who've shaped this nation's course," President Barack Obama said at the unveiling ceremony on Wednesday.

Parks died in 2005 age 92. Several of her family members attended the event.

She is the first black woman with a full-length statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall, where sculptures of scores of famous Americans stand.

'Decades of political work'

Mr Obama and House Speaker John Boehner led the unveiling, with one of Parks's nieces joining in.

The statue portrays Parks seated with her back straight as if on a bus, wearing a coat and hat and clutching a purse.

Parks's arrest sparked a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system.

"We do well by placing a statue of her here,'' Mr Obama said. "But we can do no greater honour to her memory than to carry forward the power of her principle and a courage born of conviction."

Several hundred lawmakers and congressional staff and dozens of members of Parks's family attended the ceremony.

"Here in the hall, she casts an unlikely silhouette... unassuming in a line-up of proud stares, challenging all of us once more to look up and to draw strength from stillness,'' Mr Boehner said in his remarks.

Jeanne Theoharis, author of a biography of Parks, told the Associated Press beyond her oft-cited act of civil disobedience Parks was a full-fledged civil rights activist.

"Rosa Parks is typically honoured as a woman of courage, but that honour focuses on the one act she made on the bus on 5 December 1955," Ms Theoharis said.

"That courage, that night, was the product of decades of political work before that and continued... decades after," she said.

She had been previously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999, both during the Clinton administration. The US Postal Service also issued a stamp in her honour on 4 February, which would have been her 100th birthday.

Parks's niece Rhea McCauley said the Statuary Hall honour was different.

"The medal you could take it, put it on a mantel,'' she said. "But her being in the hall itself is permanent and children will be able to tour the [Capitol] and look up and see my aunt's face."

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