Johnny Cash Statue To Replace a Civil War Figure at Statuary Hall - Are We Trying to Forget The Past?

source: Wikimedia Commons

Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson (R) has announced in a weekly address that the statues of Arkansas attorney Uriah Milton Rose and former state Gov. James Paul Clarke would be replaced in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.

According to Hutchinson, the statues representing Arkansas in Washington DC should relate to more contemporary history. The Natural State suggested the music legend Johnny Cash and civil rights activist Daisy Lee Gatson as a replacement.

Both Rose and Clarke were nationally prominent political figures during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The former Arkansas Governor, James Paul Clarke, was also a U.S. senator in the post-Reconstruction era. Clarke reportedly shared some segregationist and racist views. 

According to historians familiar with Clarke, in 1894 when he was running for Governor, he reportedly said that people of the South were expecting from the Democratic Party to keep the white standards of civilization.

According to the Democrat-Gazette which first reported the news for the replacement, many high-profile politicians in Washington have pushed for the statues swap.

Among the most vocal politicians to call for the removal of statues that honor the era of slavery is Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Back in 2017, she pointed out that in the halls of the United States Capitol there should be no place for the men of the Confederacy and their violent bigotry.

Despite her words, when after the removal of the statue of Rose, 11 other sculptures of men sided with the Confederacy will remain part of the Statuary Hall collection, The Washington Post estimated.

Sen. David Wallace, who sponsored the bill, claimed that cutting ties with Confederacy was not his main goal when he proposed the swap. Wallace called both Rose and Clarke ''fine gentlemen'' highlighting that they were from a different era.

Johnny Cash, one of the best-selling musicians of all time, was native to Arkansas. Besides his music career, he was also a famous human rights activist, fighting for the rights of Native. Americans, prison reform, and more. 

In addition to that, Cash was also famous for wearing black to support the poor. His protest song, ''Men in Black'' also became his nickname. In 1997, he said he continued to wear black in public as little has changed. Cash's daughter, Rosanne, expressed her gratitude to Gov. Hutchinson for honoring her father.

Daisy Lee Gatson played a vital role in the desegregation of the schools in Arkansas. She served as a mentor of the African-American children, known as the Little Rock Nine, the first students of color to attend the Little Rock Central High School.

It would take at least a few years for the statues swap to take place, Wallace explained. Some private funding needs to be found for the construction of the new sculptures. Also, it has not been decided yet where the statues of Clarke and Rose will stand after they come back home from Washington.

Do you agree with the removal of the statues despite the controversial for our times views of Rose and Clarke?