On Tuesday, the Washington Post released a highly-touted “exclusive” claiming to reveal that the United States Capitol has artwork that “honors” at least 140 slave-owners.
Fox News reports that the article, written by a staff writer named Gillian Brockell, proves that at least one-third of statues and artwork throughout the Capitol depict either slave-owners or members of the Confederacy, as well as figures who are thought to have owned slaves but were never confirmed to do so.
“When the 118th Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, its members will walk the halls of a building whose paintings and statues pay homage to 141 enslavers,” writes Brockell. “As part of a year-long investigation into Congress’s relationship with slavery, The Washington Post analyzed more than 400 artworks in the U.S. Capitol building, from the Crypt to the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda, and found that one-third honor enslavers or Confederates. Another six honor possible enslavers — people whose slaveholding status is in dispute.”
Brockell further opines that “none of the works are accompanied by any acknowledgment that their subjects enslaved people,” suggesting that such changes should be made to historic displays.
“Just as governments and institutions across the country struggle with the complex and contradictory legacies of celebrated historical figures with troubling racial records, so too does any effort to catalogue the role of the Capitol artworks’ subjects in the institution of slavery,” Brockell continued.
On Wednesday, the Post tweeted about the story with the caption: “Exclusive: A Washington Post investigation of more than 400 artworks in the U.S. Capitol building found that nearly one-third honor enslavers or Confederates.”
However, the paper’s attempt at describing it as an “exclusive” was widely mocked on social media, since the article relies on publicly-available historical information. Others pointed out the irony of a newspaper named after George Washington criticizing slave-owners’ depictions in the U.S. Capitol, when Washington himself was included in that list.
Phil Magness, director of the American Institute for Economic Research, responded to the story by rhetorically asking “Remember that time just 5 years ago when the Washington Post assured us that various statue removal movements were not going to be a slippery slope to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson?”
Magness was referencing the anti-monument movement that has been ongoing in the United States since 2017, after a peaceful protest in Charlottesville, Virginia was attacked by Antifa and other far-left agitators, resulting in the accidental death of an Antifa rioter. As the protest was over the preservation of a statue of Robert E. Lee, the Left soon began targeting other Confederate monuments around the country, with many local authorities pressured into removing statues before they were destroyed by rioters. The movement was greatly accelerated in 2020 amidst the Black Lives Matter riots, with domestic terrorists quickly targeting other statues beyond the Confederacy, including statues of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.