Seventy-two history professors in the Commonwealth of Kentucky signed a letter urging the state to remove Jefferson Davis’ statue from the state capitol building [story here]. In the letter, sent to the state legislators, the governor, and the Historical Properties Advisory Commission, the professors said having the Davis statue in the capitol “minimizes the significance of slavery as a cause of the Civil War, downplays the human suffering of millions and endows the Southern cause with a nobility it does not deserve.”
Carol Dupont, associate professor of history at Eastern Kentucky University, was the driving force behind the letter. Two professors in the state did not sign the letter. According to Professor Dupont, “They basically saw it as trying to erase history, when it is actually an attempt to be sure what persons are put in a position of honor.” Personally, I think a professor of history ought to be smarter than to think moving a statue is erasing history.
The Historical Properties Advisory Commission appointed a committee to provide historical context for the statues in the capitol. The seventy-two professors aren’t satisfied with commission’s plan. In the letter, they wrote, “On the one hand, the statute celebrates Davis as an eminently honorable man, while on the other a plaque would inevitably inform visitors that he defended a brutal system of human bondage, committed treason against the United States, and helped start the bloodiest war in our history.”
The professors would like to see the statue moved to a museum. The speaker of the state House of Representatives said he would introduce a bill to move the statue to the Kentucky History Center. This year there are three major candidates for governor, a Republican, a Democrat, and an Independent, and all three support moving the statue.
Depending on what the plaque said, I’d be happy with a plaque providing historical context, considering Davis was born in Kentucky and served as US Secretary of War in addition to being a US Senator from Mississippi. Having said that, though, I also wouldn’t be upset with the statue being moved to the Kentucky History Center.
What do you think?