obama 071620CHICAGO – State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) is calling on lawmakers to reevaluate the statues on Illinois state capitol grounds, starting with the replacement of the Stephen Douglas statue with the country’s first Black president and former Illinois senator.

“Former President Barack Obama has accomplished so much, and there is barely any celebration of him anywhere around our state capitol,” Van Pelt said. “Some of the most significant moments in his early career took place in Springfield. It is a statue that’s long overdue.”

Douglas, like many politicians of his era, was a racist who owned slaves. He supported the 1857 ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which denied enslaved people their freedom, even in free states like Illinois. More than 750,000 Americans felt the way Douglas did, which led to a war over slavery.

Despite their defeat, Confederate memorabilia still is seen around the state and country.

For many Black Americans, this memorabilia is a sign of hate, with symbols such as the Confederate Flag being comparable to how Jewish people feel about the swastika.

“Tearing down racist statues is not erasing history,” Van Pelt said. “If America is serious about the empowerment of Black lives -- and other groups that have been marginalized in this country -- it should be reflected in our symbols and in our statues.”

In calling for the removal of the Douglas statue, Van Pelt echoes sentiments from colleague Senator Emil Jones III. If Douglas’ statue was removed, Illinois would join a handful of states that have begun to tear down these statues of oppression in response to the death of George Floyd.