The longstanding movement to make the District of Columbia America’s 51st state presses on, as the House passed a bill for statehood of the nation’s capital on Thursday.
The Washington, D.C. Admission Act, sponsored by D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, would reduce the federal district to two-square-miles, including federal buildings like the Capitol and the White House. The remaining residential and commercial areas would become the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, in honor of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. In becoming a state, D.C’s residents would have representatives who can vote in Congress, after decades of activists fighting for it.
Some advocates consider this a racial justice issue given D.C.’s current demographics and the history of disenfranchisement in the federal district. Statehood would give D.C. the highest proportion of African Americans of any state.
Historically, just as Black American men gained their right to vote during Reconstruction, Congress disenfranchised D.C. residents. One Alabama senator plainly said that after “the negroes came into this district,” federal representatives believed it was necessary to “deny the right of suffrage entirely to every human being” who lived there.
The vote fell on party lines, getting passed by House Democrats 216-to-208. It now heads to the Senate, where passage will be more challenging.