GOP lawmaker under fire for displaying ‘racially offensive’ book passage in office

Greg Nash

The American Federation of Government Employees is seeking a public apology from Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) after union members said they came across a “racially offensive” passage in a Confederate book displayed in the congressman’s office.

Members of the union told CNN that they saw the 1897 book, “General Robert Edward Lee; Soldier, Citizen and Christian Patriot,” while they were waiting for a scheduled meeting with Ferguson on Monday.

They said the book was opened to a page that read: “The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially, and physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race, and, I hope, will prepare and lead them to better things.”

{mosads}Octavius Miller, a representative of the union who was in Ferguson’s office at the time, told CNN that he noticed the book displayed in a glass case while waiting in the reception area.

“The fact that this passage feels that me and my ancestors of color are immeasurably better off in the United States of America being slaves than we were in Africa, that is so disrespectful,” Miller said.

“My first reaction was to flip this little case upside down, and I had to think about why I was there, what I do for a living,” he added. “But the disrespect and the inattention to everything that people who are colored like myself and the pigmentation of my skin had to deal with … it enraged me.”

Miller and other union members were at Ferguson’s office to discuss the rights of Transportation Security Administration workers. The members were reportedly unable to meet with Ferguson on Monday due to a scheduling error.

Miller said he decided to take a photo of the book passage, which he later shared with CNN, because he “could not believe” what he saw.

The union reportedly contacted Ferguson’s office after the incident asking for an apology and that the book be removed from his office.

Miller later told CNN that Ferguson’s chief of staff, Bobby Saparow, called him on Tuesday and apologized for the incident. Saparow reportedly said the book had since been removed.

“He said he wasn’t aware the book was there. He apologized maybe 15 times on the phone,” Miller said. “It seemed as if they just said what was necessary to try to mitigate the situation.”

Ferguson’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The union’s national president, J. David Cox Sr., later called for a formal apology from Ferguson in a statement to CNN, saying, “It is utterly despicable that Congressman Ferguson would dare display such a racist item so prominently in his office.”

“I am mortified for Mr. Miller and any other constituent who have had the misfortune of seeing this racist book while just trying to visit their member of Congress here in the nation’s capital,” Cox added.

Tags Drew Ferguson federal workers Slavery

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