The House of Representatives on September 10, 2012, passed H.R. 6366 following the lead of the U.S. Senate which previously passed similar legislation which directs the Library of Congress to accept the District’s statue of Frederick Douglass to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol. While this move is long-long overdue it also presents us with a time to both reflect and act. Frederick Douglass is an American icon and with over a hundred and fifty statues presently in the U.S. Capitol it is a shame that it’s taken this long to have a statue of him within its historic halls.
Mark Plotkin, in June 2012, wrote that the District should bring attention the issue of the denial of our statues in the Capitol by attempting to deliver them to the Capitol. It was a great idea to raise awareness that not only are the voices and vote of the people of the District denied within the U.S. Capitol but even our statues, simple inanimate objects, are denied a place in the Halls of Congress. Now that a compromise measure admitting one statue has been adopted we should look to a new idea and new strategy to raise awareness of our plight.
The District has two years, according to the legislation, to work with the Library of Congress to transport the statue from One Judiciary Square to the Capitol. Instead of handing the statue over, let’s as a city march the statue up to the steps of the Capitol, and turn back around and take it back to One Judiciary Square. The District should deny Congress the privilege of having this statue within its halls. We should proudly keep the statue of this noble champion of justice and equality within our halls of government to inspire us to continue to push for our democratic destiny.
In 1848, Mr. Douglass spoke at the Seneca Falls Convention in support of women’s suffrage saying, “in this denial of the right to participate in government, not merely the degradation of woman and the perpetuation of a great injustice happens, but the maiming and repudiation of one-half of the moral and intellectual power of the government of the world.” Don’t these words hold true for the citizens of the District of Columbia? Aren’t we too denied the right to participate in our federal government depriving it of our moral and intellectual power? Why should we allow his statue, that we paid for, to stand in a building that houses our national legislature that for 220+ years has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate a great injustice against the people of the District of Columbia?
The District and the people of the District should use this event as a catalyst for change, a catalyst for equality, a catalyst to push for full citizenship rights, a catalyst to raise awareness around the country about our unequal status, and a catalyst to stir up passions to push for Statehood. The District should refuse the request of Congress to house the statue of Frederick Douglass and we should keep it for ourselves until Congress grants us all a place in the Capitol, not just one of our statues. Frederick Douglass lived his life committed to freedom and equality and we should honor his life and spirit by using the statue as a symbol to push for justice in his adopted hometown.