Currently in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, the State of Mississippi is represented by two statues, which were donated in 1931. Whether the statues of Jefferson Davis and J.Z. George, who were prominent in the secessionist movement, should be replaced with a modernized statue to more accurately represent Mississippi has lead to a statewide discussion.
Last night at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, Charles Overby, William “Brother” Rogers and Marvin King held a live discussion, where they addressed the issue by asking whether the statues should still represent Mississippi and if the statues were to be replaced, whose statue would best represent the state.
All three agreed that change is necessary, but they held a unique view of why a new statue should be donated.
“We shouldn’t hide our history, even though it is distasteful,” said King, associate professor of political science and African-American studies at the University of Mississippi.
Rogers argued that it’s not about hiding or trying to change history, but instead about “encompassing the full 200 years of this state’s history.” He added that since so much has happened since 1931, it’ll simply take time to modernize how the state of Mississippi is represented in Statuary Hall.
While discussing who best represented Mississippi if a replacement were to be made, a number of names surfaced, including Aaron Henry, Robert Clark, Ida B. Wells, Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hammer.
When asked which route he would go in deciding who to choose to represent Mississippi, King said, “It would be hard for me not to automatically gravitate toward the Civil Rights Movement, but that would be far from a slam dunk in this state.”
Rogers said that Mississippi should choose an African-American to represent the state.
“Out of the 100 statues representing each state, not a single one is African-American,” he said.
After Rogers’ statement, a discussion began of B.B. King and whether an entertainer or a writer would be appropriate for this honor.
“It would have been heretical in 1931 to put in an entertainer; but today, I don’t think it’s that far off the mark,” Overby said.
All three agreed B.B. King would be a good choice in replacing one of the statues, claiming that his story is exactly what should represent Mississippi.
Across the state, the topic of Statuary Hall is being discussed after a poll was released allowing the public to cast their votes. So far, seven states have agreed a change is necessary. As Rogers suggested, a change may seem to be in the far future, but according to the poll, Mississippi just may be taking a step closer.
Overby Center Discussion Creates Ideas, Who Should Represent Mississippi's Historic Past?
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