In-Depth: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote a letter calling for the removal statues from the Capitol that are linked to figures who joined the Confederacy or were otherwise advocates for slavery & white supremacy. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) joined a group of Democrats in introducing legislation to remove the statues from display in the Capitol:
“Next week, the Democratic-led House will take a historic vote to show our country and the world that statues honoring defenders of racism, slavery, segregation, and white supremacy are not welcome in the U.S. Capitol building. It is appropriate that our bill removes the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the author of the Dred Scott ruling in 1857 that upheld slavery, from the Old Supreme Court Chamber and replaces it with that of Justice Thurgood Marshall, a Marylander who fought for civil rights and equality as the Court’s first African-American justice. It is reprehensible that individuals who did so much to divide our country and dehumanize African Americans are honored in the halls of Congress.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) added:
“In this moment, the horrors of systemic racism are front and center and the manifestations are before the public each and every day. The removal of Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol is an important step in dismantling the systems that hold us back on our path forward. As I said when I first introduced the Confederate Statue Removal Act in 2017: these painful symbols of bigotry and racism have no place in our society and certainly should not be enshrined in the U.S. Capitol. Justice Thurgood Marshall, a champion of equality and justice, is a fantastic addition to our Capitol and embodies the efforts we are making to eliminate symbols of hate and injustice.”
The National Statuary Hall Collection contains statues of two historical figures associated with each state, that are supplied by each state and displayed in the U.S. Capitol. Statues that are included in the National Statuary Hall Collection include those depicting several figures who are controversial because of their connections to the Confederacy, slavery, or Jim Crow, including:
Confederate President Jefferson Davis of Mississippi & Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens of Georgia, both of whom were charged with treason.
Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee of Virginia, Joseph Wheeler of Alabama (who later served as general in the U.S. Army), and Wade Hampton III of South Carolina; Confederate Colonels James Z. George of Mississippi & Zebulon Vance of North Carolina; plus Confederate soldiers John Kenna of West Virginia, and Edward Douglass White of Louisiana (who later served as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court).
The statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith of Florida, which will be replaced by a statue of African-American educator & civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune; and the statue of Uriah Rose of Arkansas, a lawyer & county chancellor who sided with the Confederacy and whose statue is scheduled for replacement with a statue of Johnny Cash.
John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, who served as a U.S. senator & vice president and was a strong defender of slavery.
James Paul Clarke of Arkansas, a Democratic governor & U.S. senator who advocated for white supremacy. (Arkansas is replacing his statue with one of Daisy Bates, who was one of the Little Rock Nine.)
Charles Aycock of North Carolina, a Democratic governor who advocated for white supremacy campaigns during the Jim Crow era that disenfranchised blacks. (North Carolina has voted to replace his statue with one of the Reverend Billy Graham.)
Because Congress doesn’t have discretion over what statues states send for display, this bill would simply remove them from display in areas accessible to the public rather than sending them back to their state of origin.
The Democrats’ bill excludes one additional controversial statue depicting former Sen. Pat McCarran (D-NV), who held openly racist & anti-Semitic views that have prompted current members of Nevada’s congressional delegation to call for his statue’s removal.
This legislation has the support of 16 cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / florin1961)