Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune statue exhibit in Ocoee showcases journey to Statuary Hall

National Statuary Hall unveiling scheduled for July

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson brought the exhibit to Central Florida on Saturday.

OCOEE, Fla. – From marble to masterpiece, the Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune statue exhibit the Lakeshore Center in Ocoee takes visitors on a journey of the educator’s life and how she’s being honored at the Capitol.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson brought the exhibit to Central Florida on Saturday.

“I think she represents the diversity of the state of Florida,” Thompson said.

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The exhibit starts with McLeod’s accomplishments in education and civil rights. It then chronicles how Florida lawmakers selected the founder of Bethune-Cookman University to represent Florida in Statuary Hall, as well as showcasing how the marble statue was made.

“For people who can’t make it to Washington, D.C., we have it right here in Central Florida,” Thompson said.

The choosing of Bethune is historic, Thompson said. Florida is the only state to be represented by an African American woman at the Capitol.

Thompson said as we celebrate Juneteenth, this shows how far we’ve come.

“To have an African American female as Florida’s representative in Statuary Hall is clear evidence of the progress that we have made,” Thompson said. “However, it also signifies that there’s still much to be done and that we all have to continue to work to get us to a point where more of us are included in positions of influence and authority.”

The exhibit will eventually move to its permanent home at the Wells’Built Museum of African American History and Culture in Orlando.

The official statue unveiling in Washington, D.C., is set for July 13.

Thompson hopes the community will continue to visit the exhibit to learn about Bethune’s contributions.

“What I hope that they will take away is how she was able to build this education institution, her commitment to making sure that people were educated, that they had access and I hope that they will learn that there are people who are talented and skilled who come from all backgrounds,” she said.