March 28, 2011 by EVE · Comments Off
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Last Thursday a Maryland Senate committee approved an amendment that effectively guts the bill to place a statue of Harriet Tubman in National Statuary Hall.
The original bill (Senate Bill 351) calls for Maryland’s existing statue of John Hanson to be replaced with one of Harriet Tubman. The new amendment almost completely rewrites the bill, asking Congress instead to give Maryland special permission to place three statues, with the Tubman statue as the third addition.
“But we already know the answer to that,” says Suzanne Scoggins of EVE (Equal Visibility Everywhere), which sponsored the original legislation. “The answer is no. Each state is allowed two statues. The rules for Statuary Hall are precise and carefully formulated. There are 100 statues in the collection—two from each state—and the Capitol barely has room for all of them as it is. If you want to change a statue, you bring one home and send the new one in its place. There is absolutely no reason to expect that Congress will make a special exception for Maryland and allow them to have three statues. The supporters of the amendment are calling it a ‘compromise,’ but it’s not a compromise. Maryland isn’t going to be allowed to have three statues, and they know it. The effect of the amendment is to kill the Harriet Tubman statue.”
In an statement, EVE President Lynette Long said:
Maryland had a unique opportunity to replace a slaveholder with a slave, a white man with a Black woman, a colonial figure with a Civil War figure. They have squandered that opportunity. Instead, they’ve chosen to petition Congress for something they know they won’t get, in a transparent attempt to pass the buck to the federal government.
The population of Maryland is 29% African-American and 51% female. Harriet Tubman, an African-American woman from Maryland, was one of the most courageous and inspiring individuals in our nation’s history. She was truly one of the all-time great American heroes, one of a handful of names that every schoolchild in this country knows. It is only right that she should be one of the two individuals representing Maryland in National Statuary Hall. Yet a small group of white male legislators has derailed the entire project.
Leading the opposition is Maryland Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, Jr., a 68-year-old Democrat who has been a member of the Maryland Senate since 1975. He is joined by two other long-standing Democrats, Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton (a member of the Senate since 1995 and a relative of John Hanson) and Senator Roy Dyson, also a member of the Senate since 1995.
These gentlemen apparently believe that Maryland is best represented in Statuary Hall by an all-male, all-white contingent. Rather than honor Harriet Tubman, they prefer to keep the statues of Charles Carroll and John Hanson that have been in place since 1903. Charles Carroll was the largest slaveholder in the American colonies, and John Hanson was a minor figure who served a one-year term presiding over the Continental Congress.
What is especially disturbing is that on February 16, 2011, the Southern Maryland News reported Senator Miller as proposing that “a special category should be established in Statuary Hall for women and blacks who were not considered when states first were invited to contribute statues in 1864.” This smacks of separate but equal. It’s a sexist and racist statement that ignores the fact that women and Blacks have made contributions throughout history that have been ignored.
The March issue of DC Spotlight is online, and the “In the Spotlight” featured person is none other than our own Dr. Lynette Long, president of EVE. Spotlight Editor-in-Chief Wendy Thompson interviewed Lynette at home, and the result is a fascinating article about the inspiration for EVE, our current projects, the background to the Harriet Tubman Statue Project, and more. Go read!
Thanks to DC Spotlight and Ms. Thompson for this wonderful piece. Here’s the video portion of the interview included with the article:
(Ed. Note: This op-ed is being published in the Baltimore Sun on Friday, March 11, 2011. See our Harriet Tubman Statue Project for more.)
The Maryland General Assembly has an opportunity to send a new representative to the United States Capitol. This person wouldn’t be a voting member of Congress but would stand tall in the halls of the Capitol and serve as a symbol of freedom, courage and equality to all Americans. This session, the Maryland legislature will decide whether or not to replace the statue of John Hanson that has stood in National Statuary Hall for more than 100 years with one of Harriet Tubman.
National Statuary Hall was established in 1864 by an act of Congress. By law, each state is authorized to furnish two statues of citizens who are “illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services.” Harriet Tubman certainly fits that description. She was an abolitionist, a union spy, a suffragist, and a great Marylander who risked her own life countless times to save the lives of others. John Hanson, a Colonial era farmer and first president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, is represented by one of Maryland’s two statues in the collection. The other statue is of Charles Carroll, another Colonial-era Marylander, who was the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Our nation’s Capitol is the symbol of our democracy. In a nation where we believe that anyone can accomplish anything, our government systematically sends the unmistakable message to girls and women that their contributions to our country’s history were insignificant. The enormous Capitol frieze surrounding the Rotunda depicts the history of the United States, celebrating key moments in our history from the nation’s inception to the discovery of flight, and yet there is only one recognizable woman depicted in those paintings: Pocahontas. In Statuary Hall itself, there is only one woman out of 38 statues, and only nine women in the entire Collection of 100 statues displayed throughout the Capitol. …continue reading
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