House approves bill to put Frederick Douglass statue in Capitol


A statue of Frederick Douglass, seen above in 2008, is a step closer to the halls of the Capitol. (Dominic Bracco II/The Washington Post)

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Dan Lundgren (R-Calif.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), was passed by voice vote and now awaits action in the Senate. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has offered a companion measure in that chamber.

Each of the 50 states has two statues apiece in the Capitol, and Norton has pushed for years for the District to be afforded the same right. Statues of Douglass and architect Pierre L’Enfant have been completed and are sitting at One Judiciary Square, awaiting an invitation to Capitol Hill.

But the effort hit a wall in 2010, as some gun rights supporters threatened to attach language to the proposal weakening the District’s gun laws. And some Republicans, led by Lungren, complained that giving D.C. two statues would suggest the city has the same status as a state. Instead, Lungren offered a compromise, giving the District and each U.S. territory one statue each.

Norton said Monday she was pleased the bill was moving forward

“The statue would be placed alongside statues of other distinguished Americans and will be only the third statue or bust of an African American in the Capitol,” she noted in a statement. “This placement will be a fitting tribute to one of the nation’s most important human rights heroes.”

In his own statement, Lungren said, “Douglass’ presence in the U.S. Capitol will honor this institution and serve as an enduring testament to this nation’s struggle for freedom and equality.”

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