Cori Bush displays photo of lynching on House floor in protest at efforts to censor Black history

‘St Louis and I rise today because if America’s students are not taught the truth in school, we can at least make the House of Representatives their classroom’

220209 - Cori Bush

Rep Cori Bush displayed a photo of a lynching on the House floor as she delivered a speech denouncing Republican attempts to censor the United Stateshistory of racism.

“St Louis and I rise today because if America’s students are not taught the truth in school, we can at least make the House of Representatives their classroom,” the Missouri Democrat said in a speech.

Ms Bush’s words come as schools across the country attempt to ban books that deal with racism.

Virginia Gov Glenn Youngkin became the first Republican to win the commonwealth’s governorship in a decade largely on the back of opposing schools teaching “critical race theory,” a term for a niche legal theory taught in law school that has since become a catch-all for any type of discussion of America’s history regarding racism. Similarly, in Alabama, the state’s Superintendent said he had calls where people said having Black History Month could be considered critical race theory.

Ms Bush related how her last name was not the one that her ancestors originally had but was one forced upon them by the slave trade.

“We’re going to tell the truth today,” Ms Bush said. “Black adults and Black children enslaved and forced to endure being tormented, being tortured, being raped by white slave owners on slave ships and on the plantations.”

Ms Bush – a member of the Squad of progressive lawmakers that includes other members like Rep Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman of New York – largely cut her teeth during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer. She also cited a report from The Washington Post that showed that 1,700 members of Congress enslaved Black Americans.

“Our presidents owned, our presidents sold, our presidents enslaved Black people,” she said. “The image behind me, this image is the truth of our country’s history that our students are denied. This is what lynching in America – this is what it looks like.”

Ms Bush added that dozens of white people gathered around to celebrate for every Black person who was hanged from a tree.

“When our students don’t learn about these lynchings in school, it’s not just to deny us our justice, it’s because racist policymakers don’t want white children to know that that may be great-grandpa, smiling in the picture and pointing up at our ancestors dangling as strange fruit,” she said, referencing the name of a Billie Holliday song about the lynching of Black Americans.

“This is the truth about our country that too many racist lawmakers want to prevent our students from learning. So to young white people, this is your history,” she said. “The atrocities perpetuated against Black people for generations were committed by your ancestors. Not all of you. But many of you.”

In response, she asked white students what they will do to repair the damage.

“And if your history books do not teach this history, question the book,” she said. “Talk to your school district. Tell them we don’t want to whitewash history. We want and deserve the truth.”

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