Congress Demands Black History Smithsonian Include Clarence Thomas
A group of legislators led by Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn introduced a resolution Monday demanding the National Museum of African American History and Culture include Justice Clarence Thomas in its exhibits.
A corresponding resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Earl “Buddy” Carter and Pete Sessions, and co-sponsored by a dozen others.
It was reported in October that the nation’s second black Supreme Court justice—who will also soon become its longest-serving black justice—was not included in the new museum.
“Justice Thomas’ humble beginnings, brilliant mind, and indelible contributions to American jurisprudence are nothing short of remarkable. His omission from the National Museum of African American History and Culture is troubling and reflects a disregard for the historical significance of his service to our country,” Cornyn said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the Smithsonian to hopefully correct this.”
The resolution is also sponsored by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch, Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, Tim Scott and Ted Cruz.
Carter called Thomas’ exclusion from the Smithsonian a “tragedy. ”
“Justice Thomas’ contributions to America, his unique life story, and strongly held convictions should be shared and celebrated and I will not give up until the Smithsonian properly recognizes and shares this important part of history,” he said in a statement.
Though Thomas is conspicuously absent from the museum, law professor Anita Hill, who accused him of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings in 1991, is given pride of place in an exhibit about blacks in the 1990s. The exhibit features testimonies trumpeting her courage and the surge of women’s activism that ensued, while making only peripheral reference to Thomas.
There is no showcase of Thomas’ life and career, which ran its own harsh gauntlet of racial discrimination.
The resolution is the latest step members of Congress have taken to protest Thomas’ exclusion. Seventeen members of Congress, led by Carter, submitted a letter to the Smithsonian asking curators to provide an explanation in October.
For its part, the Smithsonian has denied it applied any ideological litmus test in preparing its exhibits.
“There are many compelling personal stories about African-Americans who have become successful in various fields, and obviously, Associate Justice Thomas is one of them,” a spokesman said in October. “However, we cannot tell every story in our inaugural exhibitions.”
“We will continue to collect and interpret the breadth of the African-American experience,” the spokesman added.
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