Hanson statue survives Tubman overthrow attempt

Senate to ask Congress for third spot in National Statuary Hall Collection

March 28, 2011|By Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun

John Hanson's spot in the U.S. Capitol is secure, but Harriet Tubman's chances of securing one are spotty.

The General Assembly has been weighing whether to swap in Tubman, who helped slaves travel to freedom on the Underground Railroad, for Hanson, a Southern Maryland merchant and former president of the Continental Congress, in the National Statuary Hall Collection.

Each state is allowed only two statues in the collection. Maryland has been represented since 1903 by Hanson and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The National Organization for Women and dozens of history and civil rights groups have lobbied this session for Tubman, who was born into slavery on the Eastern Shore.

Although senators are supportive of Tubman, they won't trade Hanson for her. Rather than have to choose between the two, the Senate voted Monday night to ask Congress to allow Maryland a third statue.

In addition to providing glowing background information for Hanson, Carroll and Tubman, the amendment reads: "Whereas, It would benefit the nation and visitors to the nation's Capitol to be made aware of Tubman's contributions if an exception were made and an additional statue for Maryland were permitted in the National Statuary Hall Collection."

The Senate says other states have three statues, but a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol says that's not strictly true. Although there are other statues in the Capitol, spokeswoman Eva Malecki says, each state may contribute only two historical figures for the official Statuary Hall collection.

The House of Delegates has been waiting for the Senate to send over its bill before taking up the issue. Del. Susan Lee, chairwoman of the women's caucus, said she'll work even harder next year if Tubman fails to unseat Hanson this session.

The Montgomery County Democrat noted Hanson has "monumental supporters" — including Senate President Thomas. V. Mike Miller, who presides over the chamber bookended by small statues of Hanson and Carroll.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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