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Introduction of the Francis G. Newlands Memorial Removal Act

Floor Speech

Date: Sept. 11, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. NORTON. Madam Speaker, today, I rise to introduce the Francis G. Newlands Memorial Removal Act. This bill would remove the plaque and inscription bearing Francis G. Newlands' name from Chevy Chase Circle, a federal park located both in the District of Columbia and Maryland. I am pleased that Representative Jamie Raskin joins me in introducing this bill.

Newlands was a U.S. senator from Nevada, a conservationist and the founder of the Chevy Chase Land Company, which developed the Chevy Chase neighborhood that touches D.C. and Maryland. Newlands was also a segregationist. He built Connecticut Avenue and dedicated it to D.C., and ran a streetcar up the road to the newly built Chevy Chase Lake. However, homes on Connecticut Avenue were purposely priced to keep working families out, and covenants were later added to many of the property deeds in Chevy Chase explicitly prohibiting the land from ever being owned by African Americans or Jews. These covenants have since been declared void. He also used his conservationism as a way to keep Black and white Americans separate. In the late 1800s, he and Senator William Stewart secured 2,000 acres of land for Rock Creek Park. Establishing this park not only increased property values for landowners like Stewart and Newlands, but also kept white communities distinct from emerging Black communities on what they called the ``wrong side of the park.'' Newlands' racist views went even further. In 1912, he called for the repeal the 15th amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote.

The fountain was established in 1932 by Congress. In 1990, the Chevy Chase Land Company also added the plaque next to the fountain. My bill would remove Newlands' name from the fountain and remove the plaque entirely. A resolution to remove Newlands' name from the fountain was first introduced by the Chevy Chase Advisory Neighborhood Commission in 2014, and on July 27, 2020, the Commission voted unanimously to ask the National Park Service to remove the bronze plaque bearing Newlands' name and to begin discussion on a new name for the fountain. My legislation would gift both the plaque and the inscription on the fountain to Newlands' descendants.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support this bill.