A seven-foot tall bronze statue of abolitionist and Black orator Frederick Douglass is likely to soon join a bust and a statue of two other African American icons in the U.S. Capitol thanks to a measure that cleared Congress Sept. 12 and was sent to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
The president is expected to sign the bill to allow the Douglass statue to be placed in the Capitol, ending a long-standing insult to D.C. residents, who have been denied statuary representation there.
“For the residents of the District, Douglass was first and foremost a D.C. resident, the first Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, and a distinguished Republican,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said after the measure cleared the House Sept. 10.
Placement of the Douglass statue had been blocked by a law limiting Statuary Hall placement to state-commissioned pieces. The District of Columbia is not a state, therefore the statue commissioned by the city of Douglass was not allowed, until the bill sponsored by Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) in the House and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in the Senate cleared the move.
Lungren and other House Republicans had complained earlier that allowing a D.C.-commissioned statue in the Capitol would be recognition of state status for what is regarded as a territory. Lungren, chairman of the House Administration Committee, agreed to a compromise that will allow D.C. and other territories to be represented by a single statue each.
“It’s of great importance to the residents of the District who are in a constant struggle to be both perceived and acknowledged as the full and equal American citizens that we are,” Norton said of the action, according to the New York Times.
Currently only abolitionist Sojourner Truth and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. are the only Blacks figures among the 180 statues and busts representing the 50 states.