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DC Will Get a Statue of Frederick Douglass in the Capitol

Thanks to a long lobbying effort, the statue will stand in Emancipation Hall.

A statue of Frederick Douglass will go in Emancipation Hall. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user MikeSheridan89.

It’s a surprise it took so much huffing and puffing, but since DC is not a state the city’s unequal status made it difficult to do something so simple: allow a statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass in the Capitol. But this week President Barack Obama signed a law that makes it possible for the bronze statue to be placed in the Emancipation Hall of the US Capitol Visitor Center.

The way it works in the Capitol is that each state is permitted to have two statues in the Capitol. Most of them are in Statuary Hall. Others are in the rotunda, and others still line a number of hallways—literally the halls of Congress. But since DC is denied statehood, it’s also denied any statues.

Who’s the hero in this? A combination of lawmakers, but principally DC’s House delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, with the help of Representative Dan Lungren of California and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York. Norton has been after this prize for years. She would also like the courtesy to extend to the man who designed the city’s original plan, Pierre L’Enfant. The Douglass statue, at least, was approved by Congress last week, and Obama signed the measure Thursday.

There are many reasons the District’s motto is Taxation Without Representation. This was one of them.

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