SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The statues of Stephen Douglas and Pierre Menard were removed from the Illinois Capitol grounds Saturday morning. Recent racial injustice led to criticism of the former U.S. Senator and first Lt. Governor of Illinois, as both men owned slaves.
Architect of the Capitol Andrea Aggertt planned to complete the removal project over the weekend as there are fewer people around the complex. Aggertt also noted there was easier access to the statues for construction workers and equipment. Crews were back to remove the statue platforms Monday.
Board members for the Office of the Architect voted unanimously to remove the statues on August 19. House Speaker Mike Madigan initially called for the removal in July following months of civil unrest in reaction to the murder of George Floyd. Madigan said this was necessary as Douglas and Menard fostered bigotry and oppression.
“Of course, removing these images does not erase our history," Madigan stated. "But it is one more step in acknowledging the suffering of so many and committing to creating a better Illinois for everyone.”
Aggertt says the Douglas and Menard statues will stay in a storage unit for further study. State employees draped a portrait of Douglas in the House chambers earlier this summer. Madigan plans to file a resolution this fall to put a portrait of former President Barack Obama in the frame.
Board members are also open to discussing the removal of the indoor Stephen Douglas statue. They plan on studying the history of all artifacts and statues at the complex.