Among the 11 Southern images House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has requested to be removed from the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection is one by General Edmund Kirby Smith, who has represented Florida in the Capitol since the 1920s.
What you need to know
- Library of Congress OKs mock-up of the statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
- Legislature voted in 2016 to remove the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith
- The world’s second-largest southern flag in public in Hillsborough County
- Flag will return, says chief of the local chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans
Florida lawmakers have been working to remove that Smith’s statue for years. The legislature formally voted to remove the Smith statue in 2016 and approved it in 2018 to replace it with a sculpture by educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Tampa Democratic US representative Kathy Castor said the process of getting that statue built came a step closer Monday when a Library of Congress committee approved a model of the statue of Bethune proposed by sculptor Nilda Comas .
“She will be a historic representative in the state collection here in the United States Capitol,” Castor told Spectrum Bay News 9 on Monday. “Do you currently know that of the 100 statutes representing states (in the Statuary Hall Collection), none Is African American? “
McLeod Bethune is perhaps best known for starting a private school for African American students in Daytona Beach. That school later merged with the Cookman Institute for Men and later became known as Bethune-Cookman College.
Closer to home, what is called the second-largest Southern flag in the world, in eastern Hillsborough County remains out of sight.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans took the flag off Confederate Memorial Park when protests broke out after the death of George Floyd in Tampa on the Minneapolis police during the last weekend in May in Tampa.
The move is only temporary, says David McCallister, leader of the local branch of Sons of Confederate Veterans and Save Southern Heritage.
“The flag will come back for sure. Once everything calms down and it is safe to do so. We expect to be here for the Super Bowl and welcome the world to Tampa, ”McCallister said Monday.
Tampa’s former Democratic representative, Ed Narain, was the main sponsor of the 2016 Florida House bill to remove the statue of General Edmund Kirby Smith. He says the southern flag is “not reflective” of the United States.
“We are talking about a treacherous flag that has been used for five years at the worst point in this country,” he says. “And for many people, especially African Americans, it’s not a symbol of heritage. It’s an outright symbol of hatred. You can look at the historical records and see photos of lynchings taking place, and you’ll see that flag. It is definitely nothing worse to celebrate. “
A petition is currently pending change.org calling for the “permanent” removal of the southern flag at Hillsborough that has flown at the intersection of I-4 / I-75 for over a decade. It now has over 131,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
“That petition is folly,” said McCallister, noting that Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is asking to take action to remove the flag. Since it is on private property, legislators cannot force property owners to remove it, much to their chagrin.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans started exhibiting it in 2008, during Pam Iorio’s second tenure. She called it “divisive,” while former Mayor Bob Buckhorn later called it a “symbol of betrayal.”
Meanwhile, momentum to remove Southern landmarks remains strong in Florida as protests against racial inequality and police abuse continue daily.
On Sunday, hundreds of people marched in Saint Augustine to protest a Southern monument there. And last week in Jacksonville, Mayor Lenny Curry announced the removal of a statue of a Southern soldier who had stood in a local park for more than a century and said two other monuments and eight historical Southern markings will also be removed.
Jacksonville was just named as host of the Republican National Convention in August last week.