"There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote. With that letter to Cheryl Johnson, House clerk, workers Thursday began removing from the Capitol the portraits of four of her predecessors, NBC News reports. The paintings that have been displayed in the Speaker's Lobby are of Robert Hunter of Virginia; Howell Cobb of Georgia; James Orr of South Carolina; and Charles Crisp of Georgia. All served as speaker before or after their service to the Confederacy, at various times from the 1830s through the 1890s.
Orr "swore on the House Floor to 'preserve and perpetuate' slavery in order to 'enjoy our property in peace, quiet and security,'" Pelosi wrote, while Hunter "served at nearly every level of the Confederacy," including time as secretary of state and in the army. The Democrat, who has called for statues of Confederate leaders to be removed from the Capitol and their names to be taken off military installations, said she didn't know about the portraits until recently. "We were taking inventory of the statues, and the curator told us," Pelosi said. In the Senate on Thursday, per CNN, Democrats tried to pass a measure to remove the Capitol statues, but Republicans blocked the move. (A statue of tennis great Arthur Ashe was defaced in Richmond.)