Iowa Republican Steve King got into a slap fight with history earlier this week, when he was the sole Representative to vote against a House resolution recognizing the contribution of slave labor to the construction of the U.S. Capitol. At first, he tried to spin his Nay as a mere difference of opinion with the decorator — he didn’t want to hear about placing any silly plaques until they’d settled on where “In God We Trust” was going to be chiseled in the Congressional Visitors Center. Yesterday, however, he told a radio interviewer that he objected to the resolution because it didn’t honor Jefferson Davis for fighting to free the slaves. Or something.
KING: I would just add that there were about 645,000 slaves that were brought to the United States. And I’m with Martin Luther King, Jr. on this. His documents, his speeches – I’ve read most of them. And I agree with almost every word that came out of him. Slavery was abhorrent, but it was also a fact of life in those centuries where it existed.
And of the 645,000 Africans that were brought here to be forcibly put into slavery in the United States, there were over 600,000 people that gave their lives in the Civil War to put an end to slavery. And I don’t see the monument to that in the Congressional Visitor Center, and I think it’s important that we have a balanced depiction of history.
Think Progress notes the abundance of monuments paying tribute to the men and women who served on behalf of the Union during the Civil War, but I think it would ease Representative King’s mind if someone pointed out that only about 360,000 of the approximately 618,000 casualties “gave their lives…to put an end to slavery.” The remaining 258,000 actually died to defend slavery.
So there you go, Congressman; there’s a more “balanced depiction of history” for you. All better?