House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday the House will mark Juneteenth by removing the portraits of four former House speakers who served the Confederacy.
“There’s no room in the hallowed halls of this democracy, this temple of democracy, to memorialize people who embody violent bigotry,” she told reporters.
The four speakers to be removed are: Robert Hunter of Virginia, served 1839-1841; Howell Cobb of Georgia served 1849-1851; James Orr of South Carolina served 1857-1859; and Charles Crisp of Georgia served 1891-1895.
Juneteenth, June 19 1865, marks the day Union Army general Gordon Granger proclaimed all slaves in Texas — one of the last hold outs of slavery in the U.S. — were free.
It came two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in 1865 Union forces had the strength to enforce it.
The announcement comes as the country is grappling with how to address the legacy of slavery and racial tensions after the death of George Floyd, who was killed when a white officer kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes.
The debate has been extended to Congress, as lawmakers wrestle over whether the U.S. should rename military bases that honored Confederate leaders.
Last week, Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, wrote to the Joint Committee on the Library, which oversees the statues in the U.S. Capitol, to request 11 statues of Confederate icons be removed.
Unlike Statuary Hall, Mrs. Pelosi can act unilaterally in the House.
Senate Republicans rejected that, saying it was a matter for the states to decide.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, as a descendant of a Confederate member himself, was fine with considering name changes to military bases but the statues were a different matter.
“But what I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we have to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago that has any connection to slavery,” the Kentucky Republican said.