House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Thursday ordered the removal of portraits in the Capitol of previous House speakers who served in the Confederacy as part of an effort to "appropriately observe Juneteenth" on Friday.
Pelosi said she discovered the four portraits as she was taking inventory in the Capitol of Confederate statues, which she is also trying to remove but can't do unilaterally.
"Tomorrow, Juneteenth, the clerk will oversee the removal of those Confederate speakers from the House," Pelosi announced at a press conference at the Capitol. "There's no room in the hallowed halls of this democracy, this temple of democracy, to memorialize people who embody violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy."
Pelosi sent a letter to the House Clerk Cheryl Johnson requesting the removal of four previous House Speakers to honor Juneteenth, which is observed June 19 and commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.
“To appropriately observe Juneteenth this year, I write today to request the immediate removal of the portraits in the U.S. Capitol of four previous Speakers who served in the Confederacy: Robert Hunter of Virginia (1839-1841), Howell Cobb of Georgia (1849-1851), James Orr of South Carolina (1857-1859), and Charles Crisp of Georgia (1891-1895)," Pelosi wrote to the Johnson.
"The portraits of these men are symbols that set back our nation’s work to confront and combat bigotry," she added.
The action is the latest effort by Pelosi to rid the Capitol of relics that celebrate Confederate icons. Her pursuit started during her first speakership when she successfully moved a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee down to the crypt.
Pelosi is also trying to remove 11 Confederate statues from the Capitol but needs others to sign off. However, Pelosi does have the power to move statues around and she's open to relegating the statues to dark corners of the Capitol if she can't get them removed.
Confederate statues across the nation have come down in rapid succession in recent weeks in the wake of the death of George Floyd and flood of protests demanding racial justice. Pelosi mentioned the names of black Americans who recently died in her letter requesting the removal of the confederate portraits on Juneteenth.
"Very sadly, this day comes during a moment of extraordinary national anguish, as we grieve for the hundreds of black Americans killed by racial injustice and police brutality, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others," she wrote.