Madigan wants statues gone

Speaker calls for removal of depictions of Stephen Douglas, Pierre Menard

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan wants depictions of Stephen Douglas and Pierre Menard removed from the Capitol grounds.

In a written statement issued Thursday, Madigan also he wants a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., now placed on Second Street across the street from the Capitol,  moved “to a location of more prominence and honor.”
click to enlarge House Speaker Mike Madigan also says a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., which Secretary of State Jesse White has criticized, moved to a more prominent location. - PHOTO BY DAVID HINE
PHOTO BY DAVID HINE
House Speaker Mike Madigan also says a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., which Secretary of State Jesse White has criticized, moved to a more prominent location.

A statue of Douglas stands outside the east entrance to the Capitol, and a portrait hangs inside the House chamber. In his statement, Madigan says he wants the portrait immediately covered and ultimately replaced by one of Barack Obama. Madigan said he also wants the Office of the Architect, a review of all statues, portraits and symbols on the Capital grounds with a goal of removing “inappropriate fixtures.”

The Office of the Architect of the Capitol oversees repairs, renovations and construction projects at the Capitol. Mark Flowers, a senior project manager for the office, said he wasn’t aware of Madigan’s announcement issued this afternoon.


In his statement, Madigan wrote that his interest in removing the Douglas portrait from the House chamber began after reading a book.

“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 wrote. “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.”

Madigan isn’t alone in his distaste for statues at the Capitol. Secretary of State Jesse White has long criticized the King statue at Second Street and Capitol Avenue, telling the State Journal-Register a dozen years ago that he would like to see it removed. He told the paper that he’d known King while attending college in Alabama and that the statue didn’t resemble the civil rights leader whom he remembered.

“This fellow looks like a sharecropper, with his coat slung over his shoulder,” White told the paper in 2008..


The Menard statue features a Native American kneeling in front of the state’s first lieutenant governor, who was a fur trapper in addition to being a politician.
Douglas was re-elected to the U.S. Senate in 1858 after a series of debates with Abraham Lincoln in which he said states should have the power to keep or abolish slavery.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

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