By Mike Espy
Every year, millions of Americans and tourists from around the world visit the U.S. Capitol. If you’ve ever had an opportunity to visit, you’ll know that they have “The Hall of Statues.”
There are 100 statues. Every state gets to choose two state heroes to represent themselves. For example, Alabama has a statue of author Helen Keller. Nebraska has a statue of civil rights leader Chief Standing Bear. California has former President Ronald Reagan, and Washington, D.C. has Frederick Douglass.
Guess which statues are standing in the Rotunda for Mississippi right now? Jefferson Davis and JZ George. These old symbols of hate must come down everywhere.
You know about Jefferson Davis, so I’ll tell you a little bit about JZ George. But first, will you take my survey to let me know which Mississippi hero should replace these bygone, hateful statues with?
JZ George was a senator who was the author of the 1890 Mississippi Constitution. This set of laws was the precursor to Jim Crow. It dismantled Reconstruction in Mississippi completely. It disenfranchised Black Mississippians, eliminated human rights, and fostered segregation.
After the Civil War, Black Mississippians had economic power, voting rights, and citizenship. They used their majority to elect African-Americans to office up and down the ballot. Mississippi had Black mayors, sheriffs, congressmen, and senators — including Senator Hiram Revels, the first-ever Black member of Congress in American history.
Then the 1890 Constitution came and obliterated all of that. And the guy who wrote and passed it is being honored in the United States capitol rotunda right now.
We’ve got to replace the statues of Jefferson Davis and JZ George in the U.S. Capitol, and the people of Mississippi ought to have a say in it. Take my survey and let me know: Who should replace the confederate statues in the U.S. capitol?
From BB King to Fannie Lou Hamer, Medgar Evers to William Faulker, there are so many Mississippi heroes who are much more representative of the state we can become. For years I’ve had a slogan: #DownWithJZUpWithBB. I am referring, of course, to BB King — father of the Blues.