Georgia Rep. Barry Loudermilk is in favor of replacing a statue of Alexander Stephens – the vice president of the Confederacy during the Civil War – with one of Martin Luther King Jr. at the U.S. Capitol.
Georgia lawmakers recently filed a resolution during the final days of the 2020 session, which was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol, the chamber that honors prominent American figures, allows each state to display two statues that represent its history.
Loudermilk said he often takes his constituents on tours there, but could never find anything redeeming to say about Stephens.
“Simply read Alexander Stephens’ Cornerstone speech,” Loudermilk said.
“I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. just portrays more of what we believe in Georgia.”
The Cornerstone Speech was given by Stephens in Savannah in 1861, just before the start of the Civil War. Stephens proclaimed the Confederate government would be founded on the idea that blacks were inferior to whites. Stephens also rationalized why the Confederate states would secede from the U.S., and that to a black man, “slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”
Confederate monuments nationwide have been defaced or removed over recent protests that condemn white supremacy and police brutality. Last month DeKalb County officials tore down the Confederate obelisk that once sat outside the historic downtown courthouse.
While Loudermilk has made his feelings known about replacing the Capitol statue, he’s opposed to the complete destruction of Confederate monuments. He said that he wants the statue of Stephens to be preserved.
“I am adamantly opposed to the destruction of these monuments that we’re seeing taking place across our nation,” he said.
“There’s even talk of tearing down statues of Thomas Jefferson because he was a slave owner.”
He said while Jefferson owned slaves, he wrote a grievance in the Declaration of Independence in opposition to slavery.
Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.