Madigan directs removal of Stephen Douglas portrait from State House Building

Madigan directs removal of Stephen Douglas portrait from State House Building
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Madigan directs removal of Stephen Douglas portrait from State House Building

Research reveals Stephen Douglas, the Democratic candidate for president against Republican Abraham Lincoln, was a slave owner. Madigan also directed the removal of statues of both Douglas and also Pierre Menard, also a slave owner. Madigan said he is directing the state to review all of the historical displays to remove similar reminders of past injustices.

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan released the following statement Thursday:

“While reading Sidney Blumenthal’s book ‘All the Powers of Earth’ concerning the pre-Civil War period a few months ago, I learned of Stephen Douglas’ disturbing past as a Mississippi slave owner and his abhorrent words toward people of color,” Madigan said.

“I advised my staff to research and confirm the history to support removing the Douglas portrait from the House chamber. I became more resolute in my decision to remove the Douglas portrait as we witnessed the tragic killing of George Floyd and the bravery of so many who have stood up and spoken out against injustice that has never been fully addressed.”

Stephen Arnold Douglas, Democratic candidate for President who challenged Republican Abraham Lincoln. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Madigan noted that the removal was a first step in correcting the focus on the state’s history of a painful past. 

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“So today, I am taking the first important step of removing this unnecessary reminder of our country’s painful past. When the Illinois House returns in the fall, I will offer a resolution to be voted on by the House to authorize removal of the Douglas portrait and be replaced with a portrait of President Barack Obama, a more fitting representation of the modern-day Democratic Party. In the meantime, I am looking into ways the portrait can be covered immediately,” Madigan said.

“Memorializing people and a time that allowed slavery and fostered bigotry and oppression has no place in the Illinois House, where the work of all Illinoisans is conducted. We can only move forward in creating a more just world when these symbols of hate are removed from our everyday lives.”

Madigan also said he was directing the removal of the statues of both Douglas and Pierre Menard front he Capitol Grounds, as well as relocating the statue fo the Rev. Dr.Martin Luther King Jr., to a more prominent location.

“I am calling for the removal of the Douglas and Pierre Menard statues from the Capitol grounds, as well as moving the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. to a location of more prominence and honor. I ask that the Office of the Architect move expeditiously on this matter to take a vote in the coming days to remove these statues. Further, I am asking the Office and its board to work with all Illinoisans to conduct a thorough review of all statues, portraits and symbols on the Capitol grounds to ensure any inappropriate fixtures are removed and all feel welcome,” Madigan explained.

“Of course, removing these images does not erase our history, but it is one more step in acknowledging the suffering of so many and committing to creating a better Illinois for everyone.”

Ray Hanania

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