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Three of Mississippi’s four congressmen either voted against or say they oppose legislation passed by the U.S. House to remove all Confederate monuments from the United States Capitol.
Although there are multiple on display, the vote has unique implications for Mississippi since it is the only state in the nation that displays at the U.S. Capitol two statues of Confederates: Jefferson Davis and James Zachariah George. Davis was a slaveowner and president of the Confederacy, and George was a lead architect of the 1890 state Constitution that stripped voting rights from nearly 150,000 Black Mississippians. Neither man was born in Mississippi.
The Mississippi statues were placed in 1931 after they were approved by the state Legislature in 1924. Congress in 1864 authorized each state to donate and display two statues at the Capitol of citizens “illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services.”
Reps. Steven Palazzo of the 4th District in south Mississippi and Trent Kelly of the 1st District in north Mississippi voted against the bill that passed 285-120 Tuesday. Rep. Michael Guest of the 3rd District, which is primarily central Mississippi and parts of southwest Mississippi, said he did not vote because he was delayed in returning to Washington, D.C., because of the funeral of a family friend, but would have voted no.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, who represents a large part of western Mississippi and is the state’s only African American and Democrat in Congress, voted with all other Democrats in the U.S. House to remove the monuments.
On social media, Thompson said he voted for the legislation because “statues of those who served in the Confederacy or supported slavery or segregation should not have a place of honor in the U.S. Capitol.”
In the past, Mississippi’s Republican members of Congress said they believe it should be up to the states to decide the monuments representing them in the U.S. Capitol.
“I would be opposed to the federal government ordering or dictating Mississippi to remove those statues,” Guest has said in the past.
Mississippi’s two U.S. senators, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, both Republicans, have made similar comments.
Wicker told WJTV last summer, “It would be a mistake for Congress to remove statues placed in the U.S. Capitol by Mississippi or any state. In my view, such an overreach would be counterproductive to the healthy conversations on race happening across the country. Under federal law, state governments are solely responsible for selecting and replacing the statues that represent their states.”
Other southern states, such as Arkansas and Florida, are taking steps to remove from the U.S. Capitol monuments tied to slavery or the discrimination of African Americans.