Poet Maya Angelou’s face may already grace a U.S. postal stamp, but should she have a North Carolina post office named after her too? A vast majority of U.S. lawmakers voted “yes.” But not Colorado Rep. Ken Buck and eight other white Republican congressmen.
They objected to naming a Winston Salem post office after the winner of the 2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom. Their reason? She’s a communist sympathizer, five out of the eight congressmen told news outlets including ABC, NBC and The Baltimore Sun.
Helena Matema LeRoy, Angelou’s great niece and caretaker for the last two years, told The Colorado Independent she had spoken with Angelou about politics and had no reason to believe she was a communist.
“Only great aunt Maya could articulate her political views,” LeRoy said.
Why would Buck, particularly, care about a North Carolina post office’s name? He has remained silent on the issue and his office ignored multiple messages from The Colorado Independent.
Despite his nay vote, the bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, including from 205 Republicans who voted for it.
Rep. Alma S. Adams, a North Carolina Democrat, had the the full backing of her state’s delegation. The bill had 12 cosponsors, besides Adams, 10 Republicans and 2 Democrats.
The naysayers were: Mo Brooks, Alabama, Michael Burgess, Texas; Jeff Duncan, South Carolina; Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin; Andy Harris, Maryland; Thomas Massie, Kentucky; Alex Mooney, West Virginia and Steven Palazzo, Mississippi.
At a town hall last May, Buck’s former chief of staff, Greg Brophy, who has blogged for The Independent, said his ex-boss had “the most conservative voting record of the entire delegation.”
When asked about Buck’s vote, he said, “How would I know why a Congressman votes the way he does?”
Those objecting to the Maya Angelou post office were led by Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican and a son of Eastern European immigrants who fled communism after World War Two.
Harris opposed naming a post office after Angelou because she met with Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro in the 1960s.
She wrote about the experience in her memoir, The Heart of A Woman: “As Black people often said, ‘Wasn’t no communist country that put my grandpa in slavery. Wasn’t no communist lynched my poppa or raped my mamma.”
Angelou’s great niece LeRoy said Buck’s vote was likely sparked by rising anti-black sentiment in the wake of Barack Obama’s presidency and an attempt to dishonor black leaders, not just communists.
Said LeRoy: “You have to remember we are sitting smack dab on the buckle of the Bible Belt, and now that Obama’s administration is leaving, the Republican Party may feel no obligation to honor our historical leaders posthumously or otherwise.”