Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has decided to remove the portraits of 4 of her predecessors who had served in the Confederate Army.
As reported by NPR:
Pelosi directed the clerk of the House of Representatives to remove the portraits on June 19 to mark the day in 1865 when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. That day came more than two years after Lincoln signed the order freeing enslaved people — a day now observed as Juneteenth.
“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Pelosi wrote in the letter requesting the removal. “There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy.”
The four House speakers whose portraits will be removed are Robert Hunter of Virginia, who was the speaker of the House from 1839 to 1841; Howell Cobb of Georgia, who served as speaker from 1849 to 1851; James Orr of South Carolina, who served as speaker from 1857 to 1859; and Charles Crisp of Georgia, who served as speaker from 1891 to 1895.”
This makes for a great photo op, but why exactly wasn't it done sooner?
When did Pelosi decide that the existence of these portraits was an offense to our democracy?
Pelosi noted she didn’t know about the men’s paintings hanging in the Capitol until the building’s curator informed them, part of a general inventory of the statues.
The push to remove pro-Confederacy memorabilia from the Capitol takes place as cities and towns nationwide have toppled their own Civil War-era statues and have sought to confront decades of systemic racism against black Americans. Much of the national scorn has focused on statues of men like Jefferson Davis — whose statue still stands in Statuary Hall outside the House chamber.
Perhaps she really didn't know.
And perhaps this is just another spectacle meant to distract from the fact that she hasn't really done anything else in the last 2 years.
Most of the press around the decision was positive, however, and many seem to want things to go further:
But does removing a statue suddenly make the Civil War go away?
These men do not need to be celebrated, but they are part of the American story. Our history.
Instead of looking to open old wounds, why can't we move on and celebrate how far we've come as a society?
The stone sentinels that dot our landscape serve as artifacts of the past, as evidence of where we have been as a nation. Of where we might yet go. And they offer us the opportunity — if we will only take it — to question why more than 150 years after the Civil War, so much divisiveness yet remains," Caroline Janney, Washington Post.