Helen Keller (1880-1968) is famous for being both deaf and blind, due to an illness at age 2, and learning to communicate through touch with the help of her teacher and lifelong friend Anne Sullivan. Her 1903 autobiography, The Story of My Life, became a worldwide bestseller, and despite her disability she graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. Keller went on to become a political activist, traveling around the country and the world lecturing on various social causes. Her statue was donated by Alabama relatively recently, in 2009, and replaced the state’s first statue, Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, which was sent to the Capitol in 1908. The statue shows Helen as a child standing by the water pump from her childhood home, Ivy Green, in the moment when she first understood the word “water.” It was created out of bronze by Utah sculptor Edward Hlavka. The pedestal is clad with distinct Alabama white marble and its inscription is in Braille as well as English.
I encourage anyone who has not been to the Capitol to visit some time, and I recommend you schedule a private tour through your congressman’s office rather than taking the public tour. It will be more personal and you’ll have more time to appreciate these statues and a few other works of art that represent some of Alabama’s history. You’ll also get to see a few areas that aren’t shown on the public tours, like the House and Senate Chambers (if they’re open).
Calvin Cockrell is a senior at the University of Alabama majoring in journalism and economics. After graduating, he hopes to stay in the South and work in magazine design or editing.