WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (MD-05) delivered remarks at a press conference on H.R. 7573, legislation to replace the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and remove Confederate statues and other reminders of slavery and segregation from the U.S. Capitol:
“Good morning. Today will be a historic day in the Congress of the United States and in our country. Today, the House is taking a long-overdue and historic step to ensure that individuals we honor in our Capitol represent our nation’s highest ideals and not the worst in its history.
“We lament the loss of [Rep.] John Lewis, a man of principle, of conviction, and of conscience. This is an action we will take today of principle and conviction. Defenders and purveyors of sedition, slavery, segregation, and white supremacy have no place in this temple of liberty. That’s why we introduced H.R. 7573, [Reps.] Barbara Lee, Karen Bass, G.K. Butterfield, who are here with me; Jim Clyburn, our Whip; and Mr. Thompson, who is Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. We introduce this bill not only to make a statement, but to make a reality of whom we honor in the Congress of the United States, in this temple of liberty.
“As a Marylander, I worked to ensure that this bill includes the removal of the bust of former Chief Justice Roger Brook Taney — born in the district that I represent, a son of slave owners — and replace it with a bust of Justice Thurgood Marshall. In Maryland, when I was sworn in as a member of the Maryland State Senate in 1967, we were on the East Front of the Capitol, and there was a statue of Roger Brooke Taney, again, as I said, one of Maryland’s highest-ranking officials in the federal government in our history. I thought to myself that that was odd, but, frankly, took no action. And I regret that I was silent. However, just a few years ago, our Republican Governor and Democratic legislature removed that statue from the East Front of the Capitol. The irony of history is that if you walked from the East Front of the Capitol through the Maryland Capitol in Annapolis, and came out on the West Side [of the Capitol], you would walk into Thurgood Marshall Park.
“It’s time to sweep away the last vestiges of Jim Crow and the dehumanizing of individuals because of the color of their skin that intruded for too long on the sacred spaces of our democracy.
“As we work to ensure that Black lives matter, some people dismiss that phrase, ‘well, all lives matter’ – but what the Dred Scott [decision] said was that Black lives did not matter. So, when we assert that yes, they do matter, it is out of the conviction, and conscious, and appropriateness that in America – the land of the free and home of the brave – that the land of the free include all of us. And we should ensure that Black Americans are treated with dignity and respect in our institutions of government and justice. These statues must be relegated to the dark places of a shameful stain on our history.
“I want to thank my cosponsors. Barbara Lee has been a fighter for such a long period of time, who has committed herself to this objective, and I’m pleased that she’s my cosponsor. I talked to Karen Bass about Roger Brooke Taney, but then we expanded that discussion. Karen Bass [is] the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Karen, thank you for your leadership and your conviction. And then Justice G.K. Butterfield, a member of the Supreme Court in the state of North Carolina, and who is so grounded in the law, and in the case law, and is so familiar with the cases of the Supreme Court.
“I prayerfully anticipate that we can come together – Democrats and Republicans – to reject hatred and racism and to make it clear through a strong, bipartisan vote that statues of these individuals have no place in our Capitol.
“We have now been joined by [Majority Whip James Clyburn], one of the great civil rights leaders of our country, a colleague of John Lewis’s in the movement, in the fight, in the struggle, and in prison – where, as he says, he met his wife Emily, who was herself a leader in the struggle and in the movement. [He] has identified for us people who gave comfort and voice to the bigotry and the hate that was segregation, and slavery, and sedition. So I’m pleased that he as well is a leader in this effort as we go to the Floor.
“As I said, I anticipate that we will come together – Democrats and Republicans – to reject this. Those statues that we will remove, those remembrances that we will remove ought to, as I said, be relegated a place of history of the dark stains of America, not the high convictions of America. Just as the ideas they espoused should have no standing in the land of the free – ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ And we say to Taney and all those others whose statues and representations will be removed as a result of this legislation – all means all! Now I’d like to yield to my cosponsor, Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is about principles that America wants to lift up and display to the rest of the world. We have been, as so many Presidents have said, a beacon. And that beacon has stood for justice, and liberty, and fairness, and equality. We know that we have not always lived those principles in this country. This day is about doing better. Recognizing our faults, not honoring them. Regulating them – yes to history – but not to honor.”