Mary McLeod Bethune (Public Domain photo)

Officials unveiled a 10-foot statue of Black educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune on Saturday. The statue sits at Bethune Park in Bergen-Lafayette, which opened in August.

The bronze statue was created by local artist Alvin Pettit. It was placed at the park’s main entrance as a focal point of the new park and also with the intention to spark curiosity amongst viewers to engage further into her legacy. It is Jersey City’s first monument honoring an African-American woman.

“[The statue] will serve as an inspiration to future generations that barriers can be broken with education and determination,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said in statement.

Bethune Park includes an amphitheater/concert stage, open-air pavilion, shaded seating area, gaming tables, a playground, and exercise equipment. The park will be used for recreation, celebrations, farmers’ markets, and other community events. A new parking lot with electric vehicle charging stations was also built nearby to preserve the existing supply of parking.

A lifelong educator and activist, Bethune started a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Fla. The school eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. She founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Bethune as a national adviser. She helped create the Black Cabinet, group of African Americans who served as public policy advisors to the President.

The Jersey City statue is the third statue of Bethune. The others are in Washington, DC and Florida.

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