Posted on April 3, 2019

Most of D.C.’s Statues Are of White Men. A New Bill Could Add More Women and Locals to the Mix

Mikaela Lefrak, WAMU, April 2, 2019


If you’re looking for statues of native Washingtonians, women or minorities, you’ll probably be searching for a while. Of the more than 100 statues in the District, about a half-dozen are of American women. Of those, only one is of a woman of color — Mary McLeod Bethune in Capitol Hill’s Lincoln Park.

There’s also only two statues of D.C.-born people of color: Jazz phenom Duke Ellington stands on Florida Avenue Northwest in Shaw, and Motown star Marvin Gaye is in a park named after him in Northeast.

Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) wants to change this ratio. On Tuesday, he introduced a bill to the D.C. Council to build eight new statues in the city — one in each ward.


The statues would be of accomplished women and people of color who were born and raised in D.C. The bill identifies four names: Dr. Charles Drew, a medical researcher who developed groundbreaking blood storage methods; Rose Greely, the city’s first licensed female architect; Mary P. Burrill, a playwright and teacher at Dunbar High School; and the five Shaed sisters, who were all D.C. public school teachers.

The other four names would be selected by the Commemorative Works Committee, which would make its recommendations based on community and expert input.

The statues would be erected no later than January 1, 2030.


“When women and residents of color and children walk around D.C., it’s critical that they see images of themselves,” McDuffie said.


Other cities around the country are also working to correct their own gender imbalances in public monuments. Last month, New York City announced that it would erect four statues of female historical figures. Once the statues go up, each of the five boroughs will have at least one public statue of a woman, according to the New York Times.


McDuffie also introduced a bill on Tuesday to establish an advisory commission that would study the “cultural and historical appropriateness” of monuments, street names, and school names around the city. The Council member is a graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School and has joined a push to change the public school’s name.