(CNS News)—Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) removed House portraits of four former Speakers of the House yesterday in honor of Juneteenth celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
She called for the removal of the portraits at the beginning of the week after identifying the former speakers’ involvement in the slave-holding, Democrat-controlled Southern Confederacy. Pelosi later posted photos on her Facebook page of the portraits being removed.
Accompanying the photos of the portraits’ removal, Pelosi included a statement saying, “The halls of Congress are the very heart of our democracy. Allowing men who embody the bigotry and racism of the Confederacy to be honored within them sets back our nation’s work to confront and combat bigotry wherever it appears.”
The four former speakers whose portraits were removed are Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter (Va.), Howell Cobb (Ga.), James Lawrence Orr (S.C.) and Charles Frederick Crisp (Ga.).
According to the History of the House’s website, Hunter was a representative and senator to the state of Virginia, along with belonging to both the Democrat and Whig parties. He was the 26th Speaker of the House. He was born in Mount Pleasant, Virginia on April 21, 1809 and graduated from the University of Virginia with a law degree in 1828.
He was expelled from the Senate on July 11, 1861 for supporting the Confederacy. Upon his expulsion, Hunter became the Confederate Secretary of State and was part of the Confederate Senate from 1862-1865. He was imprisoned for a brief period after the war prior to his death on July 18, 1887.
Cobb was born September 7, 1815 on his family’s plantation in Jefferson City, Georgia. He joined the Democrat party in 1842 before becoming the speaker in 1849. At this point, he was pro-Union and ran on a “Unionist ticket,” when he was elected the governor of Georgia. In 1857, he became the Secretary of Treasury for President James Buchanan.
Cobb resigned the month before President Abraham Lincoln was elected president. He went back to Georgia, where he became part of the committee that ultimately formed the Confederate states. He became colonel of the Confederate army in 1861, and was officially pardoned for his part in the Confederacy on July 4, 1868.
Orr, a South Carolina native, was born in Craytonville, South Carolina on May 12, 1822. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1842 with a law degree. He became a member of the state house of representatives from 1844-1847 and was a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs before becoming the Speaker of the House.
He became a member of the Secession Convention in 1860 before joining the Confederate senate in 1861. He served in the Confederate army before being elected governor of South Carolina on a Republican ticket in 1866. He was appointed the minister to Russia in 1872 and died in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 5, 1873.
The final portrait that Pelosi removed was that of Crisp, a Democrat from Georgia. Crisp was born January 29, 1845 in Sheffield, England before his family moved to the United States a few years later.
Crisp entered the Confederate army on May of 1861 and was later promoted to Lieutenant of Company K, 10th Regiment, Virginia Infantry. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war from May 1864 to June 1865. In September of 1882, Crisp accepted the Democratic nomination for Congress where he became a member of Congress. He later became the Speaker of the House before his death on October 23, 1896.
Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) attempted to take the portrait removal another step further by proposing statues of Confederate soldiers or members of the government should also be removed. "We cannot separate the Confederate statues from this history and legacy of white supremacy. They are painful, insulting, difficult injury being compounded to so many American citizens,” Booker said.
Booker’s proposal was rejected by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) has voiced opposition to removal of portraits and statues with ties to the Confederacy. McConnell, who is a descendant of a Confederate soldier, said, “What I do think is clearly a bridge too far is this nonsense that we need to airbrush the Capitol and scrub out everybody from years ago who had any connection to slavery.”