Type to search

Decatur artist designs Rosa Parks statue that will be placed on Alabama State Capitol’s steps

Decatur Trending

Decatur artist designs Rosa Parks statue that will be placed on Alabama State Capitol’s steps

A working model for the Rosa Parks statue is presented at the Alabama Women’s Tribute Statue Commission on Apr. 18, 2023, by artist Julia Knight. (Alander Rocha/Alabama Reflector)

By Alander Rocha, Alabama Reflector, April 18, 2023

An Alabama state commission Tuesday agreed on a design for a statue of Rosa Parks for the Alabama State Capitol’s steps, the first on the grounds of the Capitol to depict a Black woman.

The statue, designed by sculptor Julia Knight, based in Decatur, Georgia, will show Parks standing on a platform, facing those coming up the stairs to the Capitol. Parks will gaze upwards, symbolizing her courage and determination. It will be placed at the top of the steps, facing North Bainbridge Street.

Parks, a seamstress and longtime civil rights activist, boarded a segregated Montgomery bus on Dec. 1, 1955 and refused to give her seat to a white person. Parks’ arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and kicked off the modern Civil Rights Movement.

The working model shows the wind blowing behind Parks’ coat, which Knight said is meant to symbolize “freedom, blowing in the wind flying up, not restricted.”

Rev. Agnes Lover, a member of the Alabama Women’s Tribute Statue Commission, said that she was captivated by the coat and the wind blowing beneath her.

“One of the things that captured me was the obvious movement in the wrinkle of the clothes, the coat floating,” Lover said. “It is showing momentum for me.” 

Dan Bynum, a local Birmingham curator and artist, said that the coat represents the initial idea of showing progress and “almost a resistance.”

“I love the folds and the contours that you put in [the coat],” he said. “Today we see so many outdoor sculptures where the fabric is flat – very structured and robotic, if you will. I love the folds. It adds so much character.”

The commission suggested a few changes to the figure, which Knight will work on for the next three weeks.

Tracey Morant Adams, a commission member and executive at Renasant Bank, said that she has several photos and portraits of Parks, and thought some minor alterations might help with the likeness.

Adams also brought up another concern around the left side of her coat not being as defined as the right side, saying it didn’t capture Parks as well.

“It certainly is captivating,” she said. “I would agree with earlier comments, but it was just that level of detail.”

It is not known when the statue will be ready for installation. 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 commission is using a state allocation to create the Parks statue. Commissioners also began fundraising for the statue of Helen Keller, which the commission estimates will cost between $211,485 and $245,000.

Annie Butrus, a Birmingham artist and member of the commission, said they are in the final stretches of finalizing the letter that will be sent out to potential donors, but the commission has not yet provided a timeframe for the Helen Keller statue.

Alabama Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alabama Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Brian Lyman for questions: [email protected]. Follow Alabama Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.