Pelosi orders removal of Confederate portraits from US Capitol
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Screen cap).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday ordered the removal from the US Capitol of four portraits of former lawmakers who served in the Confederacy, saying their images symbolize "grotesque racism."

Pelosi has asked the US House clerk to conduct the "immediate removal" of the paintings on Friday when Americans observe Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

"There is no room in the hallowed halls of Congress or in any place of honor for memorializing men who embody the violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy," the top Democrat wrote to the clerk, Cheryl Johnson.

Pelosi said she made the request to coincide with Juneteenth, given the "moment of extraordinary national anguish, as we grieve for the hundreds of Black Americans killed by racial injustice and police brutality."

Protests swept the nation following the May 25 killing of African-American George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Several Confederate statues have since been toppled or ordered removed in several states as Americans grapple with the legacy of racism.

Pelosi has also sought removal of 11 Confederate statues from the Capitol, including that of Confederacy president Jefferson Davis.

A bipartisan committee is reviewing the statue request.

The four outgoing portraits depict 19th century speakers of the House who also served in the Confederacy: Robert Hunter of Virginia, Howell Cobb of Georgia, James Orr of South Carolina, and Charles Crisp of Georgia.