Portraits of former Confederate leaders removed from Capitol

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A Confederate battle flag flies above a monument in front of the South Carolina State House in Columbia.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Portraits honoring four former House speakers who served in the Confederacy are gone from the U.S. Capitol.

The paintings were removed Thursday after Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that the men “embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy.″

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Pelosi directed the House clerk to oversee the immediate removal of portraits depicting former speakers from three Southern states: Robert Hunter of Virginia, James Orr of South Carolina and Howell Cobb and Charles Crisp, both of Georgia.

The ornately framed portraits had hung outside the House chamber for decades, barely noticed by lawmakers, staffers and journalists.