monuments

Councilman Wants More Statues of People of Color and Women in DC

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A D.C. Council member wants to see more statues of minorities and women born in D.C.

Out of all 116 statues in D.C., only nine are of people of color.

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie proposed legislation calling for the construction of a new statue in each ward by 2030, all of them representing minorities or women native to D.C. 

“People who’ve had a connection to the city but also people who have left a mark on our country‘s history,” McDuffie said. 

McDuffie introduced a similar bill in 2017, but the Council didn’t vote on it. He’s hopeful it’ll pass this year. 

Fay Hawkins lives right by one of only two statues of D.C. natives in the city: Marvin Gaye. She remembers living it up with the Prince of Soul.

“He lived right around the corner, 59 and East Capital,” she said. “He came to the parties.”

She wants to see more statues honoring local heroes, saying it could inspire more conversations about D.C. role models.

Currently, there are 68 statues in the District of American-born people. Only two are D.C. natives: Gaye and Duke Ellington. 

McDuffie’s bill has five suggestions for the eight statues: Dr. Charles Drew, a surgeon who developed groundbreaking blood storage methods; the Shaed sisters, who were D.C. public school teachers; Rose Greely, D.C.’s first licensed female architect; and Mary Burrill, a playwright and teacher at Dunbar High School.

The city set aside $300,000 last year to build a statue of Charles Hamilton Houston, a pioneering black civil rights lawyer. The city says a decision on its location should be announced in the next few months. 

Allison Schwartz — who lives near Lincoln Park, home to the only statue of a woman of color, educator Mary McLeod Bethune — said it’s time the city makes some changes.

 “To learn about history, the good and the bad, I think it’s really important, especially for kids who are growing up here in D.C.,” Schwartz said. 

McDuffie also is proposing a second bill that would create a committee to review the cities’ monuments and markers and assess their cultural and historical appropriateness.

The two bills are going through a final review process before going up for a vote in front of the full council in the next few months.

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