Statue of Limitations

One of the more interesting things for visitors to see in the Capitol is the National Statuary Hall Collection.

It consists of 100 statues placed throughout the building – two donated by each state to commemorate people who have had an impact on their state and the nation.

While most of the statues are traditional marble sculptures of the usual suspects in U.S. history, the collection has also changed with the times. Since 2000, states are allowed to even replace their statues if they so choose – which has happened three times already.

Walking through the halls of the Capitol now, there are a few statues that manage to surprise.

There are the modern – like Utah’s “Father of Television” Philo T. Farnsworth, or Colorado astronaut John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr.

Colorado’s modern statue of John L. “Jack” Swigert, Jr. – an astronaut who was also elected to Congress. (Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol)

There are the women – like Alabama’s Helen Keller and Montana’s Jeanette Rankin.

There are the Native Americans and Pacific Islanders –  like New Mexico’s Po’pay and Hawaii’s King Kamehameha I.

And there are even the Confederates – like Mississippi’s Jefferson Davis and Virgnia’s Robert E. Lee.

But there are limits to the breadth of the official collection. So far there are no African-Americans among the 100 statues, and there are no contributions from the District of Columbia.

That could soon change, with a statue of Frederick Douglass that will be heading to the Capitol.

Continue reading

The Douglass-Lincoln Debates

Two iconic Americans – and former District residents – celebrated birthdays in the past few days: President Abraham Lincoln on February 12th, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass on February 14th.

Both men played integral roles in bringing about the ending of slavery. And though they often were at odds, they developed a unique friendship toward the end of Civil War, which began 150 years ago in April.

I recently traveled across the Anacostia River to visit Frederick Douglass’s home, Cedar Hill.

Cedar Hill
Frederick Douglass’s home, Cedar Hill, in the Anacostia neighborhood.

It’s in the neighborhood of Old Anacostia, and I’ve been meaning to take a tour of the house for about as long as I’ve lived in the District.

Cedar Hill is in a part of the city that many Washingtonians and most tourists never visit – east of the river.

Continue reading