The Texas Senate Just Formed a Committee to Decide If It Should Keep a Painting of Confederate President Jefferson Davis In Its Chambers
Skeptics think the gesture is meant to diffuse recent controversies rather than create change.
The battle over Confederate-era art continues to wage on throughout the nation. Last week, Texas’s lieutenant governor Dan Patrick announced the appointment of a special committee to “review the history and procedures for the placement of art and other decor” in the state’s Senate Chamber.
Comprised of four Republican senators and three Democrats, the committee will weigh in on multiple paintings of Confederate figures currently hanging in the Texas state capitol, including artworks memorializing Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston and Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The latter painting hangs right beside the presiding officer’s desk in the Chamber.
Patrick, a former radio broadcaster-turned Trump-supporting Republican politician, occupies the second-highest executive office in Texas politics as Senate president. The committee, for him, is the realization of a promise made during a hotly contested meeting in May wherein Republican state senator Brandon Creighton introduced a bill to prevent city governments from removing Confederate monuments from public property, according to the Dallas Morning News.After four hours of debate, Creighton’s bill passed on party lines in the Senate before it died on the floor of the state’s House of Representatives.
“Our history is part of who we are and part of the story of Texas, but history is never just one person’s account,” Creighton said, introducing the bill. “We’ve seen a trend across the nation and the world where controversial monuments are removed and destroyed. I fear that we’ll look back and regret that this was a period where deleting history was more important than learning from it.”
Last year, the same group of lawmakers debated the fate of a Confederate plaque in the state capitol, first hung at the height of the civil rights era in 1959, which claimed that slavery had not been the cause of the Civil War (“the War Between the States was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery”). After protracted debates that played out both in the capital and the press, the plaque was finally removed in January.
Though the committee to review art in the Senate chamber was included as a stipulation in Creighton’s failed bill in May, Patrick nonetheless vowed to make it a reality. Detractors characterize it as more of an empty symbolic gesture than one meant to incur real change. A date has not yet been set for the committee’s first meeting.
Lieutenant governor Patrick’s office did not respond to Artnet’s request for comment.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.