State Watch

DeSantis wants statue of civil rights activist to replace Confederate figure on Capitol Hill

Greg Nash

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Wednesday requested the architect of the U.S. Capitol replace a statue of a Confederate general with one of a civil rights leader.

The statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith will be replaced with one of Mary McLeod Bethune as one of Florida’s two statues in the National Statuary Hall and elsewhere in Washington, D.C.

{mosads}Bethune founded the institution that would go on to become Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Fla.

“Florida is proud to commemorate the 144th anniversary of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune’s birthday by sending our state’s formal request to place her statue in National Statuary Hall, making her the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue,” DeSantis said in a statement.

“Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was an influential educator, leader and civil rights activist who became one of Florida’s and our nation’s most influential leaders. Dr. McLeod Bethune’s statue will represent the best of who we are as Floridians to visitors from around the world in our nation’s capitol. Her legacy endures and will continue to inspire future generations.”

Legislation to replace Smith with Bethune was first proposed in 2016 and then signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) in 2018. The statue is expected to be completed and moved to the hall next year, according to a release.

The swap comes amid a nationwide push to remove monuments that celebrate Confederate figures or moments. Earlier this year, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a law calling for statues of Arkansas attorney Uriah Milton Rose and former Arkansas Gov. James Paul Clarke to be replaced by statues of music legend Johnny Cash and civil rights icon Daisy Lee Gatson Bates.

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