DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune that will soon represent Florida in our nation’s capital is now on display in Daytona Beach. While Bethune helped Daytona Beach grow in to what it is today, her legacy is even more wide reaching.

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune's marble statue will debut in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall in early 2022

  • Bethune's statue is the first of an African American in Statuary Hall

  • Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, and was a teacher, a civil rights activist and a suffragette

No one knows that better than Dr. Tasha Lucas Youmans, Dean of Libraries at Bethune-Cookman University. She makes sure every room in the American icon’s Daytona Beach home is perfectly preserved just like it was when she was alive.

“So the china on the table here was gifted to Dr. Bethune by and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt," said Youmans.

Youmans says she learns new things daily about Bethune and the things she did to improve the lives of those around her. 

“It's become ever so important to me to preserve her legacy and make sure her story gets told to the masses,” said Youmans. ​

All around Bethune's home are reminders of her journey.

"Dr. Bethune was the 15th of 17 children and the first to be born free," explained Youmans.  "Just born a few years outside of freedom, can you imagine what people thought she would be during that time? Certainly her parents were sharecroppers and so I am sure that while they wanted more for her life.”

Despite her humble beginnings, she founded Bethune-Cookman University, was instrumental in the women’s suffrage movement and was an adviser to four U.S. presidents, and founded the National Council of Negro Women, which still thrives today.

"Her story is so much bigger than Daytona Beach, and so it is very important that we have an opportunity to share her story throughout these United States," said Youmans.  

That opportunity is coming in the form of a statue, one Youmans got to help with by providing photos from the university's archives.

“This one, she has a little smirk, it's one of the pictures where she has a little smile on her face," Youmans said, showing the photos she selected. "We have very few pictures where Dr. Bethune had a smile. It was really nice what we had that opportunity to participate in the conceptualizing the ideas for the statue."

After four years, those preserved pictures turned into a larger-than-life statue, which will soon head to Washington, D.C. It is something that Bethune’s granddaughter has waited a long time to see.

“It’s amazing — that rose is absolutely outstanding," said Dr. Evelyn Bethune. 

Bethune was only 3 years old when her grandmother passed. Now she can’t wait to see her represent the state of Florida in the U.S. Capitol, the first African American ever to represent a state in Statuary Hall.

Her statue replaces a statue of a Confederate general.  

"She has represented the whole country for quite some time, so I think it is overdue and we are very appreciative to the state of Florida because it took a lot to get this done," said Bethune. 

Her legacy of flesh and blood is now forever memorialized in stone.

“My grandmother believed that everything was divinely ordained," said Bethune. "This is definitely divinely ordained."

The statue will be on display in Daytona Beach for the public to enjoy through Dec. 12. It will then make a stop in Bethune’s hometown of Maysville, S.C., before being introduced in Statuary Hall sometime early next year.