November 12 Lecture: A Curious Removal: Leta Myers Smart, The Rescue, and The Discovery of America by C. Joseph Genetin-Pilawa
Professor C. Joseph Genetin-Pilawa of the Department of History and Art History of George Mason University will present an illustrated lecture for the U.S. Capitol Historical Society from 12:00 (noon) to 1:00 PM on November 12, 2014 in Ketchum Hall of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Building, 200 Maryland Avenue, NE. A former USCHS Capitol Fellow, Prof. Genetin-Pilawa will discuss the letter writing campaign organized by Native American activist Leta Myers Smart that resulted in the removal of two mid-19th-century statue groups from the Capitol’s East Front center steps.
Both statue groups were placed on the cheek blocks flanking the central East Front steps to the Capitol in the mid-19th century and remained there until the East Front of the Capitol was extended in the late 1950s. Luigi Persico’s Discovery of America (placed 1844), intended to show the European advancement of civilization to the New World, depicted Columbus, clad as a conquistador, holding aloft a globe before a cowering scantily clad native girl. Horatio Greenough’s Rescue group (placed 1853), with a similar theme, has an American frontiersman (widely interpreted at the time to be Daniel Boone) restraining a tomahawk wielding warrior from killing the settler’s wife and child.
Prof. Genetin-Pilawa will discuss changing cultural and political values that led to the statue groups’ removal as offensive to Native Americans and the key role played by Native Americans in that removal.
The lecture is free and open to the public. Preregistration is recommended.