Capitol History Blog

Discover the Capitol History Blog, where we give current and future scholars a forum for their insights on history and the relevance of those events today. Contributors include our staff, fellows, communications and research interns, and other guest contributors including historians and industry experts. To learn more about our fellowship and internship programs, follow the links.


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Outstanding Women Members of Congress: Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) Feminist, Teacher, and Child Care Advocate Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm achieved several firsts during her political career. She was the first African-American woman to win a seat in the New York State Assembly from Brooklyn. She was the first African-American woman to win a seat in the United States House of Representatives; in 1972, […]

Honoring Martin Luther King in Stone: The John Wilson Sculpture in the Capitol Rotunda

Written by Ronald M. Johnson On January 16, 1986, Coretta Scott King unveiled the memorial bust of her husband in the Capitol Rotunda. The unveiling, a moving event unto itself, helped inaugurate the larger observance of the first federal holiday honoring his life. Resting on a black marble base, the bronze sculpture reflected the strength that Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied throughout […]

Removal of Statues at US Capitol Offensive to American Indians

The placement and eventual removal of two statues in front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. is an oft-forgotten piece of American history, pertinent to our observance of Native American Heritage Month. The Rescue and The Discovery of America both included harmful stereotypes of indigenous people next to white figures in positions of […]

The Haunted History of the U.S. Capitol

The spirits of democracy might not be the only spirits that reside in the halls of the Capitol. Since the beginning of its construction in the late 18th century, Spooky stories remain central to the building’s history. In October 1898, the Philadelphia Press even referred to the Capitol as “the most thoroughly haunted building in […]

Worker Rights, Congress & the Movement for a Shorter Work Week

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, flexible schedules became the norm at many workplaces as many people now increasingly work from home. While there are benefits to this change, many American workers still feel overworked, especially as the division between home and the office is muddled by technology. As a result, there is rising interest among […]

Paving a New Future for the NCAA in Congress: The Implications of the SCOTUS Decision Backing Payments for Student-Athletes

On Monday, June 21, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cannot limit education-related benefits for student-athletes—a landmark decision that shakes to the core the foundation of amateurism in college athletics. Although the ruling solely focuses on benefits and payments to athletes related to education—like tuition, study abroad […]

Examining the Art of the Cox Corridors

The Cox Corridors contain some of the most outstanding narrative and historical art in the U.S. Capitol. These murals are located on the first floor of the House wing and depict significant events and periods in American history. The corridors were painted by artist Allyn Cox and later finished by Jeffrey Greene after Cox’s death. […]

A Summary History of LGBTQ+ Legislation and Representation within Congress

Last month, many across the country celebrated Pride Month in recognition of the LGBTQ+ community and its growing acceptance in American society. As such, it’s important to consider the history of LGBTQ+ legislation and representation in Congress, which has largely mirrored popular opinion—both in support of the movement and against it. The exact beginning of […]

Widow’s Succession: How Women First Gained a Foothold in Congress

On November 11, 2019, Maya Michelle Rockeymoore Cummings announced that she was running for the Maryland 7th Congressional district seat—which had been previously occupied by her late husband Elijah Cummings, who died in October of 2019. In a frank discussion following her campaign’s eventual defeat, she revealed: “People don’t know what to make of me … They have […]

The Long History of Our New Federal Holiday: Juneteenth

On June 19th, 1865, over 250,000 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas received news of their emancipation, marking a significant milestone in American history. This pivotal event commemorated the birth of Black Independence Day, a celebration embraced by African Americans across the nation. Following the end of the Civil War, Juneteenth celebrations emerged as a tradition […]

A Potential New Future for an Enduring Draft System

Recently, discussion of the American military conscription draft system permeated news outlets, since last week the Supreme Court declined to take the case NATIONAL COALITION FOR MEN, ET AL. v. SELECTIVE SERVICE SYSTEM, ET AL., which confronts the longstanding tradition of a male-only draft in the United States. In her statement regarding the case, Justice […]

Environmentalism and the United States

On April 23, 2022, President Biden attended a virtual global climate summit where he, alongside other nations, committed to significant new efforts to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. During the summit, he stated that his administration would aim to cut U.S. coal and petroleum emissions in half by 2030. To help accomplish this, […]

1861 v. 2021: Quartering of Troops in the U.S. Capitol

On April 15th, 1861, a few days after Confederate cannons opened fire on Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to be deployed to Washington D.C. to protect the seat of government and suppress the rebellion. Within a few days, volunteer Union troops from Pennsylvania answered the call and were quartered in the […]

2021 Capitol Insurrection in the Context of the Civil War

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, a throng of insurrectionists attacked the U.S. Capitol in a failed effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Hundreds of rioters aggressively marched toward the Capitol to protest outside and break into the building. In the process, they harmed police officers and vandalized and looted while they sought […]