Speaker Madigan calls for removal of Stephen Douglas imagery from Capitol

Stephen A. Douglas (1813-1861), American Politician from Illinois, USA, Portrait, 1860. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

House Speaker Michael Madigan called Thursday for the removal of Stephen Douglas imagery from the Capitol, citing the late U.S. senator’s “disturbing past as a Mississippi slave owner” and “abhorrent words toward people of color.”

Madigan, a Democrat, said he’d offer a resolution authorizing removal of a Douglas portrait in the House chamber and replace it with one of Barack Obama, calling the former president “a more fitting representation of the modern-day Democratic Party.′

Madigan said the decision was solidified after George Floyd’s killing, which has already inspired a wave of removals of Confederate monuments and other historic statues nationwide.

“Memorializing people and a time that allowed slavery and fostered bigotry and oppression has no place in the Illinois House, where the work of all Illinoisans is conducted,” he said in a statement. “We can only move forward in creating a more just world when these symbols of hate are removed from our everyday lives.”

Madigan also called for removing statues of Douglas and Pierre Menard, Illinois’ first lieutenant governor who also owned slaves, from the Capitol grounds. Madigan said a Martin Luther King Jr., statute should be moved to a prominent location.

He said he’d request the Office of the Architect to get legislative approval.

Douglas is probably is best known for a series of debates with Abraham Lincoln in 1858. He lost the 1860 presidential election to Lincoln.