House Speaker and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi has taken a step to remove racist images from the Capitol, but some believe she has gone too far.
The Speaker is removing four portraits of four former Speakers of the House from the Capitol who were part of the Confederate government, The Washington Examiner reported.
Pelosi said she has ordered House Clerk Cheryl L. Johnson to remove the portraits of former Speakers Robert Hunter of Virginia (1839-41), Howell Cobb of Georgia (1849-51), James Orr of South Carolina (1857-59), and Charles Crisp of Georgia (1891-95). All four men were part of the Confederacy in one form or another.
The likenesses of almost every House speaker line the second-floor hallways and stairwell in the House.
Pelosi said she only learned in recent days that four of the former speakers were members of the Confederacy. Pelosi said she found out about the portraits when she requested the removal of 11 statues of Confederate officers from the Capitol.
“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,” the Speaker said.
The portraits consisted of Virginia Rep. Robert M.T. Hunter, Georgia Rep. Howell Cobb, South Carolina Rep. James L. Orr and Georgia Rep. Charles F. Crisp who was in the Confederate Army when he was young and then got into politics in the 1870s.
The other Speakers were members of Congress prior to the Civil War, and after the war they held high civilian office in the Confederacy., The New York Times reported.
The paintings were loaded onto two dollies Thursday afternoon, each placed between pieces of foam board, and transported to the House collection storage.
The removal of the portraits was part of a broader rethinking by lawmakers about how American history is depicted and remembered inside the walls of the Capitol, which was built by slaves. The discussion comes as the nation grapples with a wide-ranging conversation about racism and justice after the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Speaker Pelosi and Democrats like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker have argued for statues of Confederates to be removed from the Capitol but, unlike portraits which the Speaker has the power to remove, the power to remove statues is with the states who donated them.
“Individuals who committed treason against the United States of America and led our nation into its most painful and bloody war to preserve the institution of slavery are not patriots and should not be afforded such a rare honor in this sacred space,” Sen. Booker said on Thursday.
“The continued presence of these statues in the halls of Congress is an affront not just to black Americans, but to the very ideals we as a nation proclaim, that we are a place of liberty and justice for all,” he said.
The senator attempted to win unanimous support for removal of the statues but was stopped by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt.
“It would have the effect of abandoning agreements that we have entered into with the states and the states have entered with us,” he said.
“This is a more complicated arrangement than the activity on the floor today would suggest,” he said.