Washington (CNN) - A statue honoring the legacy of abolitionist, author and statesman Frederick Douglass was unveiled Wednesday in the United States Capitol.
Hundreds of people filled Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center for a ceremony dedicating the seven-foot bronze statue.
The former slave who became a champion for civil rights in the 19th century is now the fourth African-American with a statue in the Capitol, and the first representative of the District of Columbia. Emancipation Hall is also home to statues of Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King Jr.
House Speaker John Boehner organized and led the event, which was attended by descendants of Frederick Douglass, local leaders, members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.
Lawmakers who spoke at the ceremony seized the opportunity to discuss the District of Columbia’s lack of voting representation in Congress and to push for D.C. statehood. Douglass was a leader of a District suffrage movement more than century ago.
“It’s right and fitting that Frederick Douglass, this extraordinary man, this unflinching voice for freedom, this unyielding advocate for justice should be honored with an enduring monument. It is just and proper that more than 600,000 American citizens who reside in the District of Columbia should finally have a statue representing them here in the United States Capitol,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
As dictated by the U.S. Constitution, Washington falls under the jurisdiction of Congress. The city elects a delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives – currently Eleanor Holmes Norton – though she does not have voting privileges on the House floor. Washington is not represented in the U.S. Senate.
The 23rd Amendment to the Constitution granted D.C. citizens the right to vote in presidential elections.
“Washington, D.C., residents have fought and died in every American war, just like residents of Ohio,
Kentucky, or any other state. Washington, D.C., residents deserve the same right to self-government and congressional representation as residents of any other state,” Reid said Wednesday.
Biden continued on the same theme.
“There is arguably no one who fought harder for citizenship and full equality than Frederick Douglass,” he said.
“Over a century ago, Douglass asked a good question, he said, ‘What have the people of the District done that they should be excluded from the privileges of the ballot box?’”