Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White wants a new MLK statue at state Capitol

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Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has called for the Martin Luther King Jr. statue, which is now located on the corner of 2nd Street across from the Illinois State Capitol, to be moved "to a location of more prominence and honor" in a statement issued on Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Springfield, Ill. The board of the Office of the Architect of the Capitol decided during a meeting on Wednesday, August 19th, that the statue should be moved onto the Capitol grounds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White wants to put a new statue of Martin Luther King Jr. at the state Capitol and is pledging his financial support for the project. 

In a press release Tuesday, White committed to giving $5,000 to a fund to design and build a new statue of King on the grounds of the Capitol. The new statue would replace a current statue across the street from the east side of the Capitol at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Second Street next to the Illinois State Library. 

White feels the current statue of King does not properly represent King.

“I stand ready to help in any way that will bring about a new statue of Dr. King that is prominent, dignified and representative not only of the man as I knew him but of the man as he was known to the nation and the world,” White said. 

You may like: Supports seeking ‘a more prominent place’ on Capitol grounds for King statue

White knew King as his pastor while White was attending college in Montgomery, Alabama. White was inspired by King to participate in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and said he still carries the lessons of non-violence and leadership he learned from King. 

"I continue to inspire and resonate with me. I remember Dr. King attending my college basketball games and staying afterward to offer me words of encouragement and support. He made a difference in my life,” White said.

Last year, statues and paintings of Illinois’ historical figures came under increased review amid national conversations about race and history. A statue of former U.S. Sen. Stephen Douglas that stood in front of the Capitol on the building’s east side was removed at the end of last summer and a painting of Douglas inside the House chamber was covered. Another statue outside of Pierre Menard, Illinois’ first lieutenant governor, was also removed. 

Both Douglas and Menard were slave owners.  

More: Stephen Douglas, Pierre Menard statues to be removed from Illinois Capitol grounds

Last month, Speaker of the House Emanuel "Chris" Welch, D-Westchester, created a task force to examine the role of art in reflecting Illinois’ history. The committee will hold several hearings and then present its findings to the full General Assembly. 

Former Speaker of the House Mike Madigan began the process of reviewing the building’s artwork. Madigan learned through a book about Douglas’ history of owning slaves and decided it was time for a change. Madigan also said he would support having a statue of King in a more prominent location on the Capitol grounds. 

Previous rules only allowed artwork with a direct connection to Illinois to be displayed at the Capitol, but the rules have since been updated.

Read this: Illinois House State and Monument Review Task Force to examine statues on state property

via The State Journal-Register

May 4, 2021 at 11:01AM

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