A group of black Republican lawmakers and leaders are pushing the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., to overhaul its exhibit on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, saying the current one “falls short.”
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) wrote a letter to the museum’s leaders, pushing them to add to Thomas’ exhibit as the second black American to sit on the Supreme Court. Donalds’ letter was also signed by fellow black lawmakers Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT). Dr. Alveda King, The Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James, GOP commentator Paris Dennard, and others also signed on to the letter, according to Fox News.
“This museum is a national treasure for our nation’s fabric – this is especially true for me as a Black American and Republican,” Donalds wrote. Donalds sent his letter to the museum at the beginning of February, which is also celebrated as Black History Month.
“Black History transcends political correctness and partisanship,” he continued. “Overall, the NMAAHC honors its mission, but it is unfortunate to see pitfalls likely driven by irresponsible bias.”
“Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is a notable figure in Black history and American history as one of only two Black men to serve on the nation’s highest court,” he wrote. Thomas “persevered to become a stalwart figure in the American judicial system and history.”
Thomas, a descendant of slaves, was sent at a young age to live with his grandparents because his single mother struggled to provide for him and his younger brother.
“As a Black man who has a profound respect for the contributions Justice Thomas has propitiated for generations to come, this museum must encapsulate his life as it does for hundreds of other monumental Black figures,” Donalds wrote. He concluded his letter saying that Thomas’ exhibit in the museum “falls short” of honoring the contributions of the supreme court justice when compared to his predecessor, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Thomas’ place in the museum has been controversial since the museum’s opening in 2016. When the museum first opened its doors, Thomas’ contributions to the legal profession were not mentioned in what some critics alleged was evidence of the political bias of the museum’s curators.
The late Ronald Rotunda, then a law professor at the Dale E. Fowler School of Law at Chapman University, slammed the museum in 2017 after it added mention of Thomas’ work in an exhibit with Marshall.
“Like Thurgood Marshall, he has been a very influential justice, and like Thurgood Marshall, he has risen from humble beginnings,” Rotunda said. “His father left him, his grandparents raised him. The 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. turned him to the law. He left a successful corporate law practice and turned to public service. That path led him to the Supreme Court.”
Rotunda said he was surprised “that it has taken so long” for the museum add Thomas to an exhibit and honor him as a “seminal figure on the U.S. Supreme Court.”