“All of us are in awe of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s extraordinary story,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, noting that Bethune is the first Black American to be honored by any state in the Capitol statue collection.
“How poetic that Dr. Bethune replaces a little-known Confederate general, trading a traitor for a civil rights hero in the Capitol of the United States,” Pelosi added.
Bethune’s statue was placed just across Statuary Hall from the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, and steps away from a statue of Confederate Vice President Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia, who said in his infamous Cornerstone Speech that ‘the negro is not equal to the white man.’
Georgia sent the statue of Stephens to the U.S. Capitol in 1927. It was a different time.
The Georgia Legislature could replace Stephens with someone of note from Georgia’s history at any time.
But year after year, the Stephens statue stays in place, sending the distinct message — intentional or not — that Georgia leaders don’t mind honoring someone who so publicly represented the Confederacy, slavery, and white supremacy.
Six southern states still have Confederate statues in the U.S. Capitol: Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, and Georgia.
Not on that list is Virginia — which hauled out the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in late 2020.
At some point, the other Confederates will likely get wheeled out. Surely those southern states have someone more distinguished to honor in the U.S. Capitol.
Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com