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Lofgren Remarks on Legislation to Remove Statues and Busts Honoring Slavery and Segregation from the U.S. Capitol

Washington, D.C. – Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today in support of H.R. 3005, 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:

“I rise in support of this bill.  It directs the Joint Committee on the Library to replace the bust of Chief Justice Roger Taney in the Old Supreme Court Chamber with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall.  It also directs the removal of statues and busts of individuals who served the Confederacy, and other white supremacists.

“The United States Capitol is a beacon of democracy, freedom, and equality, visited by millions of people each year – before COVID hit, and soon, we hope, to be visited by millions of people again.  What and who we choose to honor in this building must represent our values.

“Chief Justice Taney, who, in the Dred Scott decision declared that African Americans could never be citizens of the United States and had no Constitutional rights, does not meet this standard.  And neither do the white supremacists and Confederates we continue to honor with statues today.  Justice Taney’s decision continued and permitted the expansion of slavery.  Those who founded, served, and fought for the Confederacy were willing to spill American blood in defense of it. 

“In his infamous ‘cornerstone speech,’ Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens said that slavery and white supremacy were the cornerstone of the Confederacy.

“There is no shortage of American figures, like Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court, more deserving of the honor of being displayed in our Capitol.

“There are some who argue that this action is an attempt to erase and forget our history.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We must never forget our nation’s shameful periods of slavery, segregation, and racism.  This is about who we choose to honor. Who we choose to literally put on a pedestal and display as emblematic of our values.

“We are just months removed from January 6, when a mob of insurrectionists looking to violently overturn a presidential election stormed this very building.  During that awful attack, the same Confederate flag carried into battle against the United States in the 19th century was again carried into battle against the United States – and into this very Capitol. 

“It is long past time to remove from a place of honor in our nation’s Capitol the statues and busts of those who favored war against the United States in support of a so-called government founded on a cornerstone of racism and white supremacy.

“Outside the Old Supreme Court Chamber, before you get to the Taney bust, you pass another sculpture, which depicts the figures of History and Justice.  Today, we can demonstrate to the nation and the world that we have learned from our history, and we continue to pursue justice.

“Put another way, we can follow the advice of the great American poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou.  This is what she said, ‘Do the best you can, until you know better.  Then, when you know better, do better.’

“Let us now show ourselves and the world that we are who we claim to be.  Let us do better.  I urge all my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 3005 and reserve the balance of my time.”

Background:

Lofgren is Chairperson of the Joint Committee on the Library and the House Fine Arts Board. 

H.R. 3005 directs the Joint Committee on the Library to remove the bust of Chief Justice Roger from the Old Supreme Court Chamber and replace it with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice in the history of the United States and one of the nation’s most influential jurists.  It also directs the Joint Committee on the Library to remove all statues and busts of individuals who served in the military or government of the Confederacy and to remove the statues of three white supremacists: Charles Brantley Aycock, John Caldwell Calhoun, and James Paul Clarke.

H.R. 3005 was introduced by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Representative Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Representative Joyce Beatty (D-Oh.), Representative Anthony Brown (D-Md.) Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Representative Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Representative Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Representative Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Representative David Trone (D-Md.), and Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.).

The core pieces of this bill were included during the 116th Congress in H.R. 7573 which passed the House on July 22, 2020, under suspension of the rules.

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