The controversy surrounding polarizing statues in public spaces has erupted in all corners of the country in recent years.
Perhaps most notably, the U.S. House of Representatives voted this week to remove a number of statues on display at the Capitol building.
“Relegated to the dustbin of history”
According to reports, lawmakers approved a resolution that would mean the dismantling of statues honoring South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun, Supreme Court Justice Roger Taney, and Confederate leaders like Jefferson Davis.
Taney is known as the author of the Dred Scott decision that determined Blacks could not be considered full citizens of the United States. The ruling had a profound influence on the disputes that led up to the Civil War.
Despite his notorious ruling, the justice was known as a federalist and Roman Catholic who maintained that slavery was evil. His statue at the Capitol is set to be replaced by that of Thurgood Marshall, the first Black justice to sit on the Supreme Court.
Among the other leaders on the list to have their statues removed is Alexander Stephens, who served as vice president of the Confederacy, and Calhoun, whose arguments laid the groundwork for the South’s secession.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) applauded the decision, declaring that the monuments should be “relegated to the dustbin of history” and specifically denounced Calhoun for his defense of slavery.
“This nation’s foremost proponent of slavery”
“Why did South Carolina send his statue up here for us to honor?” Clyburn asked. “Simply because he was this nation’s foremost proponent of slavery.”
The South Carolina Democrat went on to link the statues to the riot on Capitol Hill earlier this year. Meanwhile, all but one of the state’s GOP representatives opposed the bill to remove them.
In the end, the bill passed with little fanfare on only muted opposition from the Republican side of the aisle. Democrats were united in support of the measure while the GOP was split: 120 ‘no’ votes and 67 ‘yes’ votes.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) supported the bill, though he noted that the figures represented on the statues therein were Democrats. For his part, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) insisted that the statue removals were emblematic of the troubling “cancel culture” trend.
A statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from the Capitol late last year and replaced by a monument to a civil rights activist. Pelosi has been pushing for the controversial statues to be taken down since at least the national Black Lives Matter uprising last summer that included the destruction of several statues representing prominent American figures.