Mike Madigan wants portrait, statues of slaveowners removed from Illinois statehouse

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — House Speaker Mike Madigan said he wants to remove two historical statues and a portrait from the statehouse because they are symbols of hate.

In a statement Thursday, Madigan said he learned about the mens’ history after reading a book on the pre-Civil War era. He said that information combined with the death of George Floyd tells him it’s time to make everyone feel welcome at the statehouse.

Madigan said he wants to remove a portrait of Stephen Douglas — a former U.S. senator from Illinois who owned slaves and who was the rival of Abraham Lincoln. Madigan said he recently learned of Douglas’ history and his terrible treatment of black people. He would like to replace the portrait with one of former President Barack Obama who he said better represents today’s Democratic party.

He’ll be asking the House to vote on a resolution in the fall. He will also be removing a statue of Douglas and a statue of Pierre Menard — the first lieutenant governor of Illinois who also owned slaves.

Madigan said he will also be moving a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. to a more prominent position in the statehouse.

In a statement Madigan said, “Of course, removing these images does not erase our history, but it is one more step in acknowledging the suffering of so many and committing to creating a better Illinois for everyone.”

Madigan said he will be reviewing all symbols, statues and portraits on the capital grounds in the coming weeks to make sure all inappropriate fixtures are removed.

In Chicago there has been a push to rename Douglas Park for the same reasons. The Chicago Park District Board, however, has been resistant to the change.

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