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Acceptance of Status of Frederick Douglass for Placement in Emancipation Hall

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 6336, a bill that I had the privilege to introduce with my esteemed colleague, the representative from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton). This bill appropriately places a statue of Frederick Douglass into Emancipation Hall in the U.S. Congress.

Frederick Douglass is a pivotal figure in American history who had an unyielding dedication to equal rights, the abolition of slavery, and the advancement of women's suffrage. In addition to a gripping personal saga detailing his flight from slavery to freedom, Frederick Douglass inspired a nation through both his compelling antislavery writings and his rhetoric.

Published in 1845, his eloquent autobiography ``Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave'' undercut pro-slavery arguments. He challenged enslavement, and he inspired individuals seeking their freedom.

After the Civil War, he served in a number of government positions and became the first African American to receive a vote for nomination as President of the United States at the 1888 Republican National Convention--yes, I would repeat, the Republican National Convention. He was a proud Republican.

Mr. Speaker, September 22 marks the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln signing the preliminary proclamation that paved the way for the Emancipation Proclamation to be signed on January 1, 1863. How fitting that a statue honoring Frederick Douglass, a man who brought freedom to so many, will be on display in Emancipation Hall.

In considering the remarkable achievements of Frederick Douglass and his contributions to our rich history, his presence within the U.S. Capitol will honor this institution and serve as an endearing testimony to the struggle for freedom and equality.

I would like to thank again my colleague, the Congresswoman from the District of Columbia (Ms. Norton). I know she, unfortunately, couldn't be here today because I know she has a requirement to teach a class; otherwise, she would be here. But I wanted to thank her for her tireless work to bring this statue to the Capitol, as well as our counterparts in the Senate, the Senate Rules Committee. As many know, Senator Schumer introduced the companion legislation in the Senate. I thank my ranking member for his support in this effort.

I urge my colleagues to support this measure, and I look forward to welcoming the statue of Frederick Douglass to Emancipation Hall very soon.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

One of the great things about Frederick Douglass is that he inspired a nation not only by the example of his lifetime in releasing the bonds of slavery and becoming a free man, but he was self-educated. He was a great orator, a great writer, a great inspiration to this country.

There's not too many people that you can talk about that actually can take credit, tremendous credit, for the passage of three amendments to the U.S. Constitution--13th, 14th, and 15th. There's not many people who were on the right side of history in such a tremendous way, someone who not only worked to encourage African Americans to fight in the Civil War on the side of freedom, but also later on to work to ensure that the message of freedom that was the promise of both our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution was embodied specifically in the Constitution by these amendments.

He was a powerful man who was very proud of his history and proud of his place in history in terms of leading a political movement and showing that African Americans were not just freed slaves that somehow got their freedom at the suffrage of the other members of society, but that they fought for it, they struggled for it, and they had both physical courage and intellectual power that inspired the Nation to recognize the fact that we had fallen so far short of the promise of our Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

I'm afraid that too many young people today don't know the story of Frederick Douglass. In a small way, this may help to rekindle the interest in Frederick Douglass so that when the young people come here to this Capitol, as they often do, and they look at the statues and they ask who is that and what did he do or what did she do, people can now look proudly to the statue of Frederick Douglass and explain what it is he did and why his powerful legacy is still an inspiration to all of us today.

So I would hope that our Members would unanimously support this legislation and that we would soon see Frederick Douglass return to the United States Capitol in this way.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

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