What are we Honoring? (Looking to Statuary Hall)

Via WaPo:  The U.S. Capitol has at least three times as many statues of Confederate figures as it does of black people

Consider this: In the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection there are three times as many statues of Confederate soldiers and politicians as there are statues of black people in the entire Capitol complex, according to records maintained by the Architect of the Capitol.

Remarkably, one of the Confederate politicians so honored is Alexander Stephens, CSA Vice President and author of the infamous “Cornerstone Speech” which includes the following clear admission of the foundation of the Confederate States of America:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.

The speaker of those words is given the honor of being one of two Georgians honored in the US Capitol.  Is it is any wonder that many Americans wonder what the point of these venerations is supposed to be?  Does anything think that the vast African-American population of Georgia finds this memorial to be appropriate?  What signal was this symbol meant to send?

More from the article on Statuary Hall:

The Statuary Hall Collection comprises 100 statues, two from each state. It was created by an act of Congress in 1864 to allow each state to commemorate “deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services.” Decisions about which individuals to memorialize are made by state legislatures and governors.

[…]

Twelve of the statues memorialize individuals who either fought for the Confederacy or were active in Confederate politics. But not a single black American is represented in the Statuary Hall Collection.

In recent decades federal lawmakers sought to address this disconnect. They couldn’t add any statues to the official Statuary Hall Collection — that power was given only to the states. So Congress commissioned its own works of art commemorating African Americans, to be placed alongside the statues in Statuary Hall.

The first was a bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., added in 1986. Congress didn’t create any additional statues of African Americans until the Obama administration, when in 2009 another bust, this one of Sojourner Truth, was placed in Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor’s Center.

So, 1o0 statues, 12 confederates, zero African-Americans.  Again:  what message is intended here?

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Race and Politics, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    We (for better or worse) are honoring the values and choices of the legislatures and citizens of the several states at the times in which the statues were commissioned. Unless those legislatures and citizenries included explanatory statements as to why these people were being honored, we don’t even know the motivations of the placements or circumstances in which the honors were given.

    As to the message, I can only guess, but in 1864 I would guess that Congress was looking for some sorts of face-saving moves that could reduce the pain of Reconstruction. But continuing to muse on this topic will bring out my inner sociopath, so I’ll just leave it at that.

  2. Gustopher says:

    I think the message is that the best some states have contributed to our country is some traitors and racists.

    Seems harsh, but what else could it mean?

  3. Michael says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: In 1864 the war hadn’t seen the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold harbor, or Sherman’s taking of Atlanta and his March to the Sea. The war was a LONG way from being over and Reconstruction wasn’t a glimmer as of yet.
    Mister Stevens, by the way, went on to be a member of Congress after the war as well as Governor of Georgia. So there’s that.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    Mister Stevens, by the way, went on to be a member of Congress after the war as well as Governor of Georgia. So there’s that.

    That just proves how truly unpatriotic the people who voted for him were…nothing says one loves one’s country like voting for a known traitor…that these people would be honored at all is disgusting…they are no better than Benedict Arnold or Aldrich Ames…

  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael:

    In 1864 the war hadn’t seen […]

    You’re missing an important fact here. In 2000, Congress passed a law creating a process for states to replace their original submission with a new statue of a different person. We’ve had about 15 years now for the Several States to consider and act. Any state that is still represented by a treasonous slaver is actively choosing to be so represented. The legislature of Mississippi has had every opportunity to replace Jefferson Davis and James Z. George with Medgar Evers and William Faulkner; they prefer their slavers.

  6. Tyrell says:

    Nancy Pelosi came up with a list of statues that she says should be removed from the capitol
    All except one were Democrats.
    After all those years that she walked by them and never said a word ? Why now ? Something to do with her sagging aporoval numbers ? Maybe she should self-impose a term limit. She might could get a job with Governor Brown’s fantasy high speed train.

  7. Bob The Arquebusier says:

    So, just what is being “honored” in Statuary Hall? An agreement struck by our forefathers 150 years ago.

    Let’s look at the man cited above, one of Georgia’s choices, Alexander Hamilton Stephens. I’d never heard of the man before, so I’ll use Wikipedia as my source.

    Mr. Stephens served in the House before the Civil War (as a Democrat). He left office in 1859. He became a leader in the Confederacy (including serving as its first and only Vice-President), but was largely a voice for moderation. He counseled against attacking Fort Sumter, he tried to negotiate prisoner exchanges, and worked for a settled end of the war.

    He also made no bones about his support for slavery. He rejected the United States Constitution in his most famous speech, where he said “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

    Anyway, at the end of the war, he was captured and spent five months in prison. Upon his release, he returned to Georgia, where he was elected to the US Senate, but excluded because he was a former Confederate.

    He was included in President Andrew Johnson’s General Pardon of Christmas Day 1868, and was once again elected to Congress in 1873, where he served honorably for ten years. In 1882, he was elected governor of Georgia, where he served for four short months until his death.

    He committed treason against the United States. He was offered a pardon by the very government he had betrayed. He accepted it, and served his nation honorably for literally the last of his days.

    The vast majority of those people who committed treason were forgiven by the people they betrayed as part of an attempt to heal the wounds of the war. Instead of seeking vengeance, the victors chose to offer forgiveness to the defeated. And the defeated, in the vast majority of cases, accepted that offer and resumed their loyalty.

    That was a bargain by our forefathers (on both sides), and in the vast majority of cases, it was accepted and honored for the last century and a half.

    Until now, when a determined group has decided, for reasons not yet explained (I have my own theories), have decided that the old agreement no longer applies. Those who had been betrayed foreswore vengeance, but this group has decided to insert their own judgment and demand their pound of flesh from those dead for over a century.

    I’m not defending those who betrayed our nation. I’m defending the notion that our nation’s word of honor should mean something. That when we, as a nation, strike a bargain, we will keep our word, and not abandon it when it becomes politically expedient. I’m defending the concept that the United States can be trusted.

    This is precisely the same argument I have made against Obama’s war of choice in Libya. In the aftermath of 9/11, Kadaffi struck a deal with the US. He stopped fomenting terrorism around the world, turned over intelligence on those he had been backing, and turned over his entire WMD program (which was far more advanced than we suspected). In return, we agreed that we would not attempt to topple his regime.

    And that agreement (which served our interests quite well) held until Kadaffi was threatened by a rebellion. That’s when Hillary saw a chance to show how tough she was, and Obama indulged her – and the US (which could have just as easily done nothing, and still honored our agreement) openly helped the rebels overthrow Kadaffi.

    And, consequently, Libya is now a terrorist hellhole, and North Korea and Iran noted that giving up their nuclear programs would be more likely to increase the chances of the US attacking them.

    This “moral outrage” that has suddenly bloomed is a crock. The real motives of the loudest voices have nothing to do with any sense of justice or morality. And their demands are that we tear up a pact that bandaged the savage wounds of the Civil War.

    Our word should be our bond. That it has not always been is true, but is no excuse to toss aside other pledges.

  8. DrDaveT says:

    @Bob The Arquebusier:

    That was a bargain by our forefathers (on both sides), and in the vast majority of cases, it was accepted and honored for the last century and a half.

    You are such a tool.

    How, exactly, was Jim Crow an example of “honoring that bargain”? Be specific.

  9. Bob The Arquebusier says:

    @DrDaveT: Wel, tool-less, “Jim Crow” wasn’t a violation of the bargain. It was the Democrats’ attempt to use the law to maintain their social, political, and economic status after the war.And it succeeded for so long because the Democrats both in the South and in the rest of the country kept enough pressure in place to keep their actions within the law.

    The Civil War was the Democrats’ attempt to continue their racial oppression by force of arms. When they lost, they agreed to stay within the law. Jim Crow was the Democrats’ attempt to continue their racial oppression within the law.

    And I think it’s no coincidence that this all blew up after the whole Russia thing fell apart (or, rather, turned out to be more dangerous to Democrats than to Trump) and the North Korean showdown calmed down and our NATO allies chose to re-commit themselves to the alliance. To the left, “get rid of Trump” is the solution; they (well, you) just keep having your rationales for that fall apart.

    Finally, just how long do you think that the Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media can keep the House Democrats/Pakistani IT staff scandal off the national radar? (If your ignorance is accidental and not deliberate, look up Imran Awan and his family. If it’s deliberate, then I wouldn’t be very surprised.) That has all the elements of a major story — crime, politics, strong indications of extortion and espionage, possible ties to hostile foreign elements, and lots more. Unfortunately, this story seems to fall under the scope of Dave Burge’s observation: “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.”

  10. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    Wel, tool-less, “Jim Crow” wasn’t a violation of the bargain. It was the Democrats’ white Southern establishment’s attempt to use the law to maintain their social, political, and economic status after the war. And it succeeded for so long because the Democratsracists both in the South and in the rest of the country kept enough pressure in place to keep their actions within the law.

    The Civil War was the Democrats’white Southern establishment’s attempt to continue their racial oppression by force of arms. When they lost, they agreed to stay within the law. Jim Crow was the Democrats’white Southern establishment’s attempt to continue their successful continuance of racial oppression within the law.

    Fixed that for you. But you almost had it right. You may turn into an actual human being yet. I’m not hopeful, though.

  11. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: How typical. You want to rewrite history and pretend that the Democrats weren’t the party of the Confederacy, weren’t the party that birthed the Ku Klux Klan, weren’t the party that spent a hundred years oppressing blacks and other minorities.

    “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell.

    But I stand by what I said. The Civil War was the Democrats’ (OK, I’ll compromise — the white Southern Democratic establishment’s) attempt to maintain the status quo by force of arms. They lost, and then spent a hundred years using the system and working within the law (including writing the laws) to do the same. And it wasn’t until the Republicans got fed up and started smacking down that crap that they finally saw the light (well, felt the heat).

    Oh, and one more thing: the current series of riots are mildly ironic: it’s pitting the former armed wing of the Democratic party (the Ku Klux Klan, now a pathetic, pitiful, insignificant shadow of their halcyon days when Democratic presidents like Woodrow Wilson and FDR promoted their members and policies) vs. the current armed wing of the Democratic party (the fascist Antifa vermin).

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    How typical. You want to rewrite history and pretend that the Democrats weren’t the party of the Confederacy

    When I was in college, a bunch of bored frat boys joined the Chinese Student Association (which was open to any and all), gained a majority, and then voted out all of the Chinese-American officers.

    You are the only person I know of who would try to get away with blaming subsequent actions of that organization on Chinese-American students. Presumably you also blame any actions by Utah Jazz players on the city of New Orleans.

  13. Unsympathetic says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    You want to rewrite history and pretend that the Democrats weren’t the party of the Confederacy

    Because they aren’t. This doesn’t take a rewriting — it takes a re-telling of things that actually happened.

    The “democrats” who were the party of the Confederacy……. BECAME REPUBLICANS. You might want to look up the Dixiecrats. Strom Thurmond was their leader. They left the Democrat party when the D party renounced racism — and the Republicans openly accepted and embraced them.

    All those cute turns of phrase you think you’re slinging at the Democrat party.. are the definition of today’s Republican party. They’re you.

    Live it, love it!