Measure To Honor Black Leaders Shelved Again

Jeremy Redmon, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Feb. 13, 2007

Proposals to hang portraits of Coretta Scott King and five other African-American civil rights leaders in Georgia’s State Capitol were sent back to the drawing board today, angering black lawmakers who have been pushing the measures for the past two years.

Some of the lawmakers suggested opponents are using delay tactics against their proposals to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s late wife and others, including Rosa Parks. Similar proposals died in the House last year.

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The committee told Salaam the Legislature no longer has the authority to hang portraits in the Capitol. That power now rests with the state’s Capitol Arts Standards Commission, which the Legislature created last year to oversee artwork in the building.

But Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue has not appointed his three members to the 15-member panel, including the chairman, said Special Rules Committee chairman Calvin Hill (R-Canton).

“We all have the ability to slow down and bury things,” Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway), chairman of Georgia’s the Black Legislative Caucus, told the Hill and the rest of his committee this morning.

“I’m sending a message to all good thinking members of the Legislature that the question ‘How long?’ has got to be answered,” Williams said. “Put it on the floor and let us vote it up or vote it down. And let Georgians see who wants to and who does not. That’s the process. Let’s not bog this down.”

Hill said he would write a letter to Perdue, urging him to appoint his members to the panel so it could start meeting. A spokesman for the governor said Perdue decided on his appointments last week and will likely announce them before the end of this week.

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The chances of these measures passing the Legislature this year were already uncertain before today’s committee meeting. The director of the Capitol Museum has said no room is left in the building for additional portraits. And House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) said he has concerns about the measures.

Similar proposals died in the House last year after Richardson said he had “reluctance to hang very many photos” of people who are not elected and are not from Georgia in the state’s Capitol.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta), president of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, has complained about the “lack of diversity” displayed in Georgia’s Capitol.

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Since last year, Brooks and other lawmakers added Boone to their wish list. He was a minister and key organizer in the Atlanta Movement, in which students organized marches against businesses that practiced segregation.

The lawmakers also want the state to designate April 27 as Coretta Scott King Day.

Under House Bill 88 and House Resolution 121, the portraits of Coretta Scott King and the other leaders would be hung on the second floor of the Capitol alongside Martin Luther King Jr.’s picture.

King’s portrait is near a corner beside Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office, sandwiched between portraits of former Govs. Roy Barnes and George Troup. No wall space is left for additional portraits, Olson said. If the new portraits went up, she said, others would have to come down.

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