Lofgren Statement on Passage of Legislation to Remove Symbols of Slavery from the Capitol

Jul 22, 2020
Press Release

 

San Jose, Calif. – Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) issued the following statement after House passage of H.R. 7573, a bill to replace the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber with one of Justice Thurgood Marshall and to remove other statues honoring slavery and segregation from the U.S. Capitol.

“The United States Capitol is one of the most visible, and most visited, symbols of democracy in the entire world.  Who we choose to honor in this space is uniquely indicative of our values and principles.  As Vice Chairperson of the Joint Committee on the Library and Chairperson of the House Fine Arts Board, I wholeheartedly agree that these symbols of hatred and racism should be expediently removed.

“Contrary to those who argue in opposition to this long overdue action, this does not seek to erase history, nor ask that we forget history.  We must never forget the shameful scar of slavery, segregation and racism. Instead, this is about who we honor.  When we think about the Holocaust, the words “never forget” admonish us to always remember the millions murdered by the Nazis.  But we do not accomplish that by erecting a statue of Adolf Hitler to put in a place of honor.

“Last month, I joined Speaker Pelosi in calling for the removal of nearly a dozen statues honoring individuals who rebelled against the United States to preserve the toxic institutions of slavery and white supremacy.  While the Senate Majority has failed to act, today’s bipartisan vote will serve to remind the Senate that the Capitol building – which belongs to the American people – can no longer serve as a place to honor those who fought for the hatred and racism that tears at the fabric of our nation.  It is long past time we replace these symbols of cruelty and bigotry with those which embody our founding virtues of liberty, justice and equality.”

Background:

Lofgren is Vice Chairperson of the Joint Committee on the Library and Chairperson of the House Fine Arts Board.  In June, Lofgren and Speaker Pelosi called for the removal of confederate statues from display in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Additionally, Lofgren sent a letter directing the Clerk of the House to remove portraits of previous House Speakers who served in the Confederacy from display in the U.S. Capitol.  These portraits included those of Robert Hunter, Howell Cobb, James Orr, and Charles Crisp.

H.R. 7573 would replace the bust of United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber of the United States Capitol with a bust of Thurgood Marshall.  Taney’s opinions in support of the institution of slavery, including the infamous 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, wrongly found that African Americans were not citizens of the United States and could not sue in Federal courts, and declared that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories.

The legislation further provides that statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America, in addition to statues of prominent white supremacists John C. Calhoun, Charles B. Aycock, and James P. Clarke, be removed from public display in the U.S. Capitol.

H.R. 7573 was introduced by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).

This legislation was approved by the House of Representatives on July 22, 2020 by a vote of 305-113.

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Congress Number: 
116th Congress