In the wake of nationwide protests over alleged police brutality and systemic racism in America, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced last week her desire to remove 11 statues of Confederate leaders from Congress’ National Statuary Hall Collection. Now, the longtime California Democrat has her eyes on a new target.
According to Politico, Pelosi announced Thursday that “four portraits of former House speakers who also served as Confederate leaders” would be removed from the walls of the U.S. Capitol.
The move comes as numerous monuments paying homage to Confederate leaders have been taken down in cities across the U.S. amid unrest that followed the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer late last month.
“As I have said before, there is no room in the hallowed halls of this temple of democracy to memorialize people who embody violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy,” Pelosi said Thursday, according to Politico. “We must lead by example.”
“Hate, not heritage”
According to the Washington Examiner, portraits of Virginia’s Robert Hunter, Georgia’s Howell Cobb and Charles Crisp, as well as South Carolina’s James Orr were ordered to be removed from the Capitol. The men, who each served as speaker of the House during the mid-to-late 1800s, were all tied to the Confederacy in some way, the Examiner noted.
The paintings were reportedly taken down Thursday afternoon, just a day before Juneteenth, a holiday that The Hill says “was first celebrated in Texas in 1866” to commemorate an order released the year prior announcing that slaves in the Lone Star State — and across America — had been freed. The June 19, 1865 order was put forth more than two years after former President Abraham Lincoln first issued his Emancipation Proclamation, according to PBS.
Of course, Pelosi isn’t stopping with the paintings. Last week, the California Democrat wrote a letter to the chairs of the Joint Committee on the Library demanding that statues of other Confederate leaders be similarly removed from the Capitol Building.
“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Pelosi wrote to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (MO) and Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA), according to The Hill. “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation.
“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals,” the House speaker added. “Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.”
“A bridge too far”
While Lofgren expressed agreement that the statues need to go, Blunt, for his part, said that while he believes the removal of Confederate statues is “encouraging,” federal law does not give his committee the authority to do so.
“Under the law, each state decides which two statues it will send to the Capitol,” the Missouri senator explained, according to The Hill. “As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received.”
Other Republicans have also been hesitant to jump at Pelosi’s request. “What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday, according to Politico.