WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives on Wednesday (Jul 22) approved a measure removing from Capitol Hill statues of people who served in the Confederacy during the country’s bitter 19th century Civil War.
While the measure was approved 305-113 in a bipartisan vote in the House, where Democrats hold a majority, it still needs approval in the Senate, controlled by President Donald Trump’s Republicans.
Trump, who has strongly opposed taking down historical statues, would also need to sign the measure for it to become law.
The Bill orders the removal from the US Capitol, where Congress is located, of statues of individuals who voluntarily served in the Confederacy.
During the 1861-65 Civil War several southern states tried to secede and form an independent slaveholding republic.
The measure would also remove the statues of three men who either supported slavery or white supremacy.
Activists and many African-Americans see Confederate battle flags and monuments to Confederates as symbols of racism, while others, especially white southerners, see them as symbols of heritage.
In mid-June the portraits of four senior 19th-century lawmakers who served in the Confederacy were removed from the US Capitol.
The paintings of the men, all former speakers of the House, were taken down at the order of current Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The US public has been increasingly grappling with the country’s legacy of racism and slavery since protests swept the nation following the May 25 killing of African American George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer.
“My ancestors built the Capitol, but yet there are monuments to the very people that enslaved my ancestors,” said Representative Karen Bass from California, chairperson of the Congressional Black Caucus.
These statues represent “an acceptance of white supremacy and racism”, she said.