By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for Coinweek …….
Designs from the 50 State Quarters program will soon adorn the subway halls below a United States Capitol office building in Washington, D.C., replacing a display of state flags and seals. The move is underway to remove Confederate symbols that formerly appeared on the walls of the subway system under the Rayburn House Office Building that link the landmark to the United States Capitol Building.
“Today I am pleased to announce a new and representative display to be fashioned on the walls of the tunnel leading into the U.S. Capitol Building,” remarked Michigan Republican Candice S. Miller (R-MI10), who heads up the House Administration Committee. “A print of each state’s commemorative coin will be tastefully displayed for this highly trafficked area, as each quarter serves as a reminder of the ideals, landmarks, and people from each state as well as this nation’s great motto, ‘out of many, one.’”
Some may call it a goodwill gesture, others political manipulation in a year when House Republicans hope to push numerous appropriations bills toward a floor vote without skirmishes over policy riders. At any rate, the House Administration Committee concluded that now is the time to remove Confederate imagery from the subway tunnel below the Rayburn Building, named for House Speaker Sam Rayburn (D-TX4, lived 1882-1961).
While relatively few flags and symbols in the prior display contained Confederate imagery, the question became how to remove the offending images while maintaining a congruous exhibit of the 50 states. Flags and regalia from the traditional South–namely banners from Mississippi–were the primary culprit.
It is little wonder that the House Administration Committee chose to replace the display of flags and seals with high-quality prints of the 50 State Quarters. The coins, which were issued by the United States Mint from 1999 through 2008, formed one of the most popular and widely collected numismatic initiatives in the nation’s history.
At one point, more than 100 million people collected 50 State Quarters, and hobbyists and non-numismatists alike continue collecting the coins today.
None of the 50 State Quarters depict the Confederate flag or other imagery considered offensive by many Americans. For example, the Mississippi State Quarter, issued in 2002, honors the Magnolia State with a design incorporating magnolia blooms. The state’s flag, meanwhile, has a large corner segment occupied by a square Army of Northern Virginia battle flag display, widely referred to as the “Stars and Bars.”
The Georgia state flag, which also incorporated a Confederate battle flag insignia from 1956 through 2003, has since been replaced by a new design. Meanwhile, the Georgia state quarter, issued in 1999, bears a reverse design containing a Georgia peach, live oak sprigs, a geographical outline of the state and a banner bearing the state’s official motto: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation.”
Use of the Confederate flag in pop culture and general society has changed over the last 30 years. For example, it was prominently featured in the CBS primetime television series The Dukes of Hazzard, a program that aired from 1979 through 1985 and was set in Georgia; 2005’s Dukes of Hazzard movie, however, went to great lengths to avoid Confederate imagery, much to the chagrin of many fans who enjoyed the original TV series two decades earlier. Even Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, which has used the Confederate flag as a trademark symbol on its album covers and stage shows, has moved away from utilizing the symbol on its albums, during stage performances, and in promotional products.
As for the 50 State Quarters display under the Raymond Building in Washington, D.C., there is no official date set for the unveiling of the new art. However, the 50 State Quarters display is said to have the approval of Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan (R-WI1), who presently serves as Speaker of the House.
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