Van Hollen, Cardin push to establish Harriet Tubman statue in U.S. Capitol building

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Photo by H. B. Lindsley, via Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons.

Maryland Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin are renewing their call for Congress to honor abolitionist and Marylander Harriet Tubman with a statue inside the U.S. Capitol Building.

The Maryland General Assembly in 2012 passed legislation to create the Harriet Tubman Statue Commission to raise money for a Tubman statue to display in the U.S. Capitol Building.

On March 10, Harriet Tubman Day, Cardin and Van Hollen introduced legislation to direct the Joint Committee on the Libraries, which is in charge of the art inside of the U.S. Capitol Building, to accept the statue once it is completed.

In a letter today to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Montana), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, Van Hollen and Cardin urged Blunt to support that piece of legislation.

The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), ranking member of the Senate’s rules and administration committee. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) also signed onto the legislation earlier this month.

The Maryland senators write in their letter to Blunt that Congress “makes powerful statements about our nation’s history and values” with the art displayed in the Capitol, including the additions of artwork honoring Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth in 2013 and 2009, respectively.

Now, Cardin and Van Hollen want Congress to recognize “another of our nation’s heroes, Harriet Tubman.”

Tubman, whose given name was Araminta Ross, was born into slavery in Maryland around 1820.

After escaping slavery in 1849, Tubman returned to Maryland to free her family and led others to freedom along the Underground Railroad. She went on to operate a network of spies against the Confederacy and tended to wounded Union soldiers as an army nurse during the American Civil War.

Tubman also advocated for women’s suffrage, cared for orphans, and established schools for freed former slaves.

Van Hollen and Cardin said a statue honoring Tubman would set an example for everyone who visits the Capitol.

“A statue of Harriet Tubman in our Capitol Building would be a powerful reminder to all visitors, from schoolchildren to foreign leaders, of the values she represents – strength, tenacity, equality, and compassion,” they wrote.

The statue will be commissioned through private funds raised by the Harriet Tubman Statue Commission, in collaboration with the Joint Committee on the Library and the Architect of the Capitol, and will be donated to the Capitol at no cost to taxpayers, Cardin and Van Hollen wrote.

Congress created the National Statuary Hall Collection in 1864, allowing each state to have two statues of notable residents in the Capitol.

Currently, Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and John Hanson, a member of the Continental Congress and later a president of Congress under the Articles of Confederation, represent Maryland in the building.

States are permitted to replace statues, but the law Van Hollen and Cardin are pushing would not do that. A statue of Tubman, if approved, would be placed in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Marcus Dieterle


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