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Pelosi Orders Removal Of House Portraits For Four Speakers Who Served In Confederacy
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 11: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a weekly news conference on June 11, 2020 in Washington, DC. Speaker Pelosi discussed various topics including the Black Lives Matter movement and coronavirus. (
Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) requested on Thursday that the House Clerk remove the portraits of four past speakers who joined the Confederacy of the American Civil War.

“Tomorrow, Americans will mark Juneteenth, a beautiful and proud celebration of freedom for African Americans. Very sadly, this day comes during a moment of extraordinary national anguish, as we grieve for the hundreds of Black Americans killed by racial injustice and police brutality, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others,” said Pelosi in a statement.

The list of names includes three congressmen who served in the position before the Civil War: Speaker Robert Hunter, a Whig who joined the Democratic party after his speakership from 1839-1841, Speaker Howell Cobb, a Democrat who left his two-year stint as speaker in 1851 to serve as governor of South Carolina, and Speaker James Orr, a Democrat who served as speaker from 1857-1859.

Pelosi also requested that the portrait of Congressman Charles Crisp, who served as speaker between 1891 and 1895 and continued to serve in Congress as a Democrat until his death in 1896, be removed from display in the Capitol building. Crisp, who was 16-years-old at the outbreak of the Civil War, joined the Confederacy and was commissioned as a lieutenant in Company K of the 10th Virginia Infantry.

According to Politico, Pelosi has said that she didn’t know their portraits were on display in the Capitol until she was informed of them. The three speakers who served in the position before the Civil War all held prominent political positions in the Confederacy.

During the Civil War, Hunter was the Secretary of State for the Confederacy before he became the President Pro Tempore of the Confederate Senate, where he served as a senator from Virginia. Cobb served as the president of the Confederate States Provisional Congress for one year before joining the Confederate Army. Orr served in the Confederate Senate for South Carolina.

“As I have said before, the halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy,” Pelosi told the House Clerk in a letter on Thursday. “There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy.”

“We cannot honor men such as James Orr, who swore on the House Floor to ‘preserve and perpetuate’ slavery in order to ‘enjoy our property in peace, quiet, and security,’ or Robert Hunter, who served at nearly every level of the Confederacy, including in the Confederate Provincial Congress, as Confederate Secretary of State, in the Confederate Senate and in the Confederate Army. The portraits of these men are symbols that set back our nation’s work to confront and combat bigotry,” said Pelosi.

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