Honoring Rosa Parks at Geogia Tech: Sculpture unveiling slated

By David Pendered

A sculpture honoring Rosa Parks is to be dedicated Thursday afternoon on the campus of Georgia Tech. The sculptor is Martin Dawe, who crafted the sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. installed last year on the grounds of the state Capitol.

The sculpture tribute to Rosa Parks invites passerby to sit between the two statues and continue the conversation the statues may be having. Credit: news.gatech.edu

The sculpture at Tech, Continuing the Conversation, is located in Harrison Square. The square honors the Tech president who guided the school through desegregation. Tech was the first major university in the Deep South to desegregate without a court order, according to a story about the sculpture published by Georgia Tech

That was in 1961, during the tenure of Tech’s sixth president, Edwin D. Harrison, who served from 1957 to 1969. Harrison is quoted as saying: “It’s the right thing to do.”

The story begins with the notion that Parks probably never stepped on Tech’s campus. But as the director of Tech’s Office of the Arts, Madison Cario, observed, the piece is an appropriate addition.

“It allows the entire campus community to reflect on how the action of one person can have tremendous impact,” Cario said. “It illuminates history and welcomes us to become a part of it.”

Similar thoughts were expressed by the benefactors, Rod Adkins and his spouse, Michelle Adkins. Both are Tech alumni and active in campus affairs.

The Adkins couple dug deep into their support for Georgia Tech to support the Rosa Parks memorial. Credit: news.gatech.edu

“It felt right,” Rod Adkins said in the story. “It felt like it integrated all of the things we stand for. We are really proud that it’s going to be on the campus of Georgia Tech.”

“She was tired of giving in,” Michelle Adkins said of Parks. “That lesson in itself is good for our young generation: It’s important to stand up for what you believe in. Fight to make a difference and to make your lives better. I think that’s something that Tech students and the Atlanta community — all people in general — can take a lesson from.”

The bronze sculpture has three components.

Two sculptures depict Rosa Parks seated on a chair. One version portrays Parks when she was 42 years old, her age on Dec. 1, 1955 when she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus so a white person could sit. The other version depicts Parks when she was 92 years old, the year she died.

Between the two sculptures is an empty chair. The idea is that passersby can stop and sit, reflecting on the conversation the two women may be having.

Sculptor Martin Dawe spent six week at this Cherrylion Studios in Midtown Atlanta crafting clay into two likenesses of Rosa Parks. Credit: news.gatech.edu

Rafael Bras, Tech’s provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, said the conversation is one of which college students should be aware.

“It is important to keep this history alive, because the conversation that Rosa Parks carried, with herself and with the people of the United States, needs to continue,” Bras said in the story. “I think we are obliged to remind and educate our students of that history and challenge them to do the same.”

Tech has scheduled the unveiling ceremony to begin at 2 p.m., followed by a reception to honor the Adkins.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

2 replies
  1. Letmesaythis says:

    Rosa Parks contribution to civil rights for all people is powerful.
    but
    Her protest was contrived.
    She was an active member of a civil rights protest group.
    She and others had been protesting on buses for quite some time before she was arrested and made famous by her actions.
    She did not act alone.
    She was 42 when she was arrested.
    She was NOT a tired little old woman.
    She was fighting civil injustice for all.
    The pop culture history myth surrounding her protest and arrest and just another form of segregation.
    Tell the truth.
    She and others were sick and tired of being shit on and they fought back in a subtle, effective and calculated way.
    Rise UP!Report

    Reply
  2. The Artists at Cherrylion says:

    All the facts you write about were included in the design and execution of this sculpture. It is not a monument to Rosa Parks; it’s an interactive installation where new generations can sit with the sculpture and contemplate the past, present and future of Civil Rights, including all subtle forms of present day segregation.Report

    Reply

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