In a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate Administration committees, the eight Democrats say amid the coronavirus outbreak, “a far more deadly epidemic has captured the attention of the global community.”
“Unlike the coronavirus, this ailment is not new; this illness has plagued the United States since its inception — racism,” they write.
Protests nationwide sparked by deaths of African-Americans like Houston native George Floyd, the letter states, and “conversations have begun regarding criminal justice reform, law enforcement priorities, issues related to race relations, and the age-old debate related to Confederate monuments and memorials.”
The state lawmakers write that they find themselves at a crossroads. “Will we situate ourselves on the right side of history by removing these symbols of hostility, or will we continue to side with “tradition” and ignore the ills of our past?”
The seven tributes in question include:
- Albert Sidney Johnston Portrait (Senate Chamber)
- Kentucky-born Confederate General
- Cannons (South Entrance & South Grounds)
- Field artillery used by the Confederates during the Civil War
- Confederate Soldiers’ Monument (South Grounds)
- Five bronze figures memorializing the Confederate Army
- Dick Dowling Portrait (House Chamber)
- Irish-born Confederate Officer
- Hood’s Texas Brigade Monument (East Grounds)
- Includes the Confederate flag carved into the monument; accompanied by quotes by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate General Robert E. Lee
- Jefferson Davis Portrait (Senate Chamber)
- President of Confederacy
- Terry’s Texas Rangers Monument (South Grounds)
- Volunteers in the Confederate Army led by plantation owner Benjamin Terry
The group also requested initiation of a formal process to rename the John H. Reagan State Office Building, which serves as an office for House personnel and human resources. John Reagan served in the cabinet of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
State Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, said the memorials signal to those who visit— and work at— the Capitol that Texas venerates the legacy of the Confederacy.
“Life size images of men who actually fought to oppress and enslave the entire Black race continue to perpetuate the generational trauma of racism,” Thierry said. “The time is overdue to correct the record as we can no longer glorify those who fought to uphold the barbaric practice of slavery.”
“The goal is clear,” she stated, “We must ensure that every walkway and hallway of our Capitol is viewed as a safe space for all Texans.”
DeSoto Democrat Carl Sherman said “there has never been a time so right to do what’s right.”
“By maintaining idols and symbols of hate we are endorsing their body of work as deserving of high
honor,” Sherman said. “It’s time to remove idols of men who did not love all men, nor did they believe that people of color were created equal by God.”
State Rep. Lina Ortega, D-El Paso, called the Confederate monuments “symbols of oppression” in a tweet demanding they be removed.
The letter-writers also requested the formation of a bipartisan, bi-chamber working group “to conduct a thorough review of the artistic, social, and historical intent and significance of all honorific memorials and symbols on the Capitol grounds.”
This letter is the latest in a years-long discussion at the state level about monuments which honor the state’s sometimes troubling past.
A “Children of the Confederacy Creed” plaque in a Capitol hallway near the rotunda was removed last year after more than a year of calls for its ouster. That plaque inaccurately stated slavery was not an underlying cause of the Civil War.
Last week, the Black Chiefs of Staff of the Texas Legislature requested the removal of all confederate commemorations from the Texas Capitol Grounds.