The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D), wrote a letter Wednesday to the Joint Committee on the Library requesting that 11 statues representing Confederate soldiers and officials be removed from the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.
Of those 11, two are authorized to be in place on behalf of Mississippi. Those statues are of Jefferson Davis and James George. Davis was most notably president of the Confederacy but also a U.S. Senator and a U.S. Secretary of War, among other things. George was a Confederate colonel who became a U.S. Senator and later help craft the state’s 1890 constitution.
“Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals,” Pelosi wrote in the letter. “Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.”
Thursday, Congressman Bennie Thompson announced legislation he was reintroducing to have the statues removed.
Congress first authorized the National Statuary Hall Collection in 1864. States donate two statues of notable citizens “illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services” for display in the Capitol.
This is not the first time Pelosi has sought to have the statues removed. In 2017, Pelosi called on then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R) to join her in supporting legislation to remove these statutes.
Now, back as Speaker, Pelosi wants them removed immediately.
“I request the Joint Committee on the Library direct the Architect of the Capitol to immediately take steps to remove these 11 statues from display in the United States Capitol,” the Speaker writes.
The letter from Pelosi is shown below.
Dear Chairman Blunt and Vice Chairperson Lofgren:
The Joint Committee on the Library is tasked, by law, with management of the National Statuary Hall collection, including the authority to determine the placement of statues. Currently, 11 statues representing Confederate soldiers and officials are on display as part of the National Statuary Hall collection in the United States Capitol. Among these 11 are Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, President and Vice President of the Confederate States of America, respectively, both of whom were charged with treason against the United States.
The infamous words of Stephens make as clear today as they did in 1861 the aims of the Confederacy. In his “corner-stone speech,” Stephens asserted that the “prevailing ideas” relied upon by the Framers included “the assumption of the equality of the races. This was in error.” Instead, he laid out in blunt and simple terms the awful truth of the Confederacy: “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. 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. Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.
While I believe it is imperative that we never forget our history lest we repeat it, I also believe that there is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol or in places of honor across the country.
Let us lead by example. To this end, I request the Joint Committee on the Library direct the Architect of the Capitol to immediately take steps to remove these 11 statues from display in the United States Capitol.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this request.
Speaker of the House