A bronze bust of the woman often referred to as "the mother of the civil rights movement" is the newest addition to the National Portrait Gallery.
The sculpture of Rosa Parks, who ignited the civil rights movement by refusing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus more than 35 years ago, was unveiled at a ceremony Thursday."I am very pleased and happy and this is the high point of my life," Parks said. "I have experienced many tributes over the years."
Now 78 and living in Detroit, Parks said she hopes the sculpture in the national gallery will help remind children in years to come of the struggle for freedom waged by blacks in this country.
"I'm optimistic that we will not turn back and give up on our effort to be a truly free people," she said. "One of my dreams is that we will have a world of peace, prosperity, justice and freedom for everybody, regardless of race, creed, color or national origin."
The incident that catapulted Parks to fame occurred on Dec. 1, 1955, when she was riding the bus home from her job as a seamstress and was ordered by the driver to give her seat to a white passenger.
Her refusal and subsequent arrest touched off a yearlong black boycott of the Montgomery transit system that ended when the Supreme Court struck down the city's bus segregation law.
The bus boycott brought national prominence to its leader, the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who went on to lead a movement that produced the civil rights and voting rights legislation that transformed the nation's social fabric.