Legislation to establish a slavery memorial at the state Capitol in Tallahassee passed its first committee Wednesday.
The bill (HB 67) would authorize the Department of Management and Services, upon a recommendation from the Florida Historical Commission, to create and establish a Florida Slavery Memorial on the Capitol Complex.
It would “honor the nameless and forgotten men, women and children who have gone unrecognized for their undeniable contributions to our great state and great country,” explained Miami Democrat Kionne McGhee to the House Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee.
McGhee’s proposal is supported by House Speaker Richard Corcoran. A similar measure passed the House during the 2017 Legislative Session, but failed to advance in the Senate, after initially being blocked by Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley.
Baxley told a reporter that he had a “discomfort about memorializing slavery” and that it would be too negative.
“I would rather celebrate overcoming the heartbreak of slavery. I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to child abuse; I wouldn’t want to build a memorial to sexual abuse,” Baxley told the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times. “I have a discomfort about memorializing slavery. … I would like to take it in a more positive direction than a memorial to slavery.”
The comments rankled McGhee, who called them “borderline racist.” The two later met for dinner and cleared up their differences.
Well-known legislative gadfly Brian Pitts praised the bill during public comment, but said that legislators should consider a similar memorial for Native Americans.
The Capitol complex currently includes monuments honoring veterans, law enforcement officers and women and one recognizing the Holocaust.