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Official portrait of Barack ObamaSPRINGFIELD – In response to House Speaker Mike Madigan’s call for the removal of Stephen Douglas’ statue from the Illinois Capitol grounds, State Senator Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) has suggested it be replaced with a statue of Barack Obama to honor our nation’s first Black president.

“We have nothing that commemorates our first Black president, who started his political career here in Illinois,” Jones said. “We have countless statues that honor military and political leaders who fought to preserve slavery. Why not replace this one with Barack, a Black man who tried to lift Black voices in communities across the nation?”

Although Stephen A. Douglas was a Democrat, he owned slaves in Mississippi and held deeply racist views about people of color. Douglas also supported the 1857 ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which stated that enslaved people did not become free when taken into free states like Illinois.

More than 1,700 U.S. memorials honor Confederates who fought to preserve slavery or the Confederacy. In June 2015, white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine African Americans at a historically black church in Charleston, S.C. In the aftermath of the mass murder, as photos emerged of Roof posing with the Confederate flag, activists started a nationwide movement to remove public tributes to Confederate heroes.

In June, George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked a widespread movement against social injustice and police brutality, inspiring protestors across the world to renew calls to remove monuments of slave traders and imperialists, including Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes and Belgium’s King Leopold II.

“People like Stephen Douglas need not be glorified, and especially not on government grounds,” Jones said. “Of course, we cannot change our past, but we can make an effort to move forward and honor people who support people of all racial backgrounds.”

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