State Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs) has introduced a resolution to begin the process of replacing the statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens with one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the U.S. Capitol.
Stephens was vice president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War and his statue is among Georgia’s submissions to the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol. Turner’s resolution is co-sponsored by Reps. Al Williams (D-168), Michael Caldwell (R-20), Valencia Stovall (D-74), Heath Clark (R-147), and Erica Thomas (D-39).
“American history is not a history of perfection, but rather the betterment of peoples’ lives who call this country home. Betterment means change for the positive, and that is why I’ve joined with my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to draft HR 1551,” Turner said Thursday. “Now is the time for a change at the United States Capitol and for Georgia to honor a man who worked for the betterment of all humankind. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. peacefully, but forcefully, called for an end to the hate and prejudice and deserves his place of honor as a representative of Georgia in the United States Capitol Statuary Hall Collection by replacing Alexander Hamilton Stephens.”
Two statues from each state are included in the National Statuary Collection. The collection began in 1864 when Congress invited each state to contribute two statues of prominent citizens for permanent display in the unused old House of Representatives chamber, renaming it Statuary Hall. Since then, the collection has expanded to 100 statues which are spread throughout the United States Capitol.
Among the collection are religious leaders, Native Americans, military generals, inventors, women, and even an Englishman who served as Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. However, Turner points out there is one glaring omission from the Statuary Hall Collection.
“Sadly, only two black patriots are featured as full statues at the United States Capitol – Rosa Parks and Frederick Douglass, and neither are part of the Statuary Hall Collection intended to represent the diversity of our states,” Turner said. “I see no person more fitting man to represent that betterment of the collection than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of Georgia.”
“This does not mean we destroy history. I believe it’s important that we return the statue of Alexander Hamilton Stephens to Georgia so that his legacy can be studied and remembered in context, including remembering the darker chapters of our shared history,” Turner said. “However, we should reserve one of Georgia’s two contributions to the Statuary Hall Collection for a man who truly fought for the betterment of all mankind.”