The white supremacist terrorists in Charlottesville had as their purported goal the “saving” of the Robert E. Lee monument in that city. The result of their hatred and terrorism may well be an accelerated removal of many more confederate monuments. As we see in this story, across the country confederate monuments are rapidly gaining more opposition. In Gainesville, Florida, Mayor Lauren Poe said, “We should not glorify a part of our history in front of our buildings that really is a testament to America’s original sin.” The city returned the statue to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who has since moved it to a private cemetery. In Durham, North Carolina, private citizens faced with a state law that prohibited the city from taking action, took action in their own hands and brought that city’s confederate monument down. In Jacksonville, Florida, City Council President Anna Brosche said, “These monuments, memorials and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many,” as she ordered an inventory of confederate monuments preparatory to removing them. Lexington, Kentucky moved up the date for removal of its confederate monuments.
According to Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Jim Gray, “Mayors are on the razor’s edge. When you see the tension. When you see the violence that we saw in Charlottesville, then you know that we must act.” This story tells us more about his views and quotes him: ” ‘It’s just not right that we would continue to honor these Confederate men who fought to preserve slavery on the same ground as men, women and even children were once sold into a life of slavery,’ Gray said in a video statement. ‘Relocating these statues and explaining them is the right thing to do.’ ”
A monument to Nathan Bedford Forrest, confederate general and early leader of the KKK, is again under assault in Memphis, Tennessee. ” ‘What Nathan Bedford Forrest stood for doesn’t express the views of this community at this time,’ City Attorney Bruce McMullen told the local Commercial Appeal, ‘and it’s counterproductive to what we want this community to be, and that is an inclusive community working together.’ Along with the still-pending waiver application to have Forrest’s statue removed, McMullen told the paper the city plans to apply for a waiver to pull a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from a park.”
Baltimore just removed all of its confederate statues overnight [see here, here, here, and here], including a monument to Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, a monument to confederate women, a confederate soldiers and sailors monument, and a monument to the infamous Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the despicable Dred Scott decision. Mayor Catherine Pugh said, “They needed to come down. My concern is for the safety and security of our people. We moved as quickly as we could.” According to Mayor Pugh, “Any city that has Confederate statues has concern about violence occurring in their city. Baltimore is right in the midst of getting a consent decree completed, that isn’t something that’s needed.”
In this op-ed, Rich Lowry of the National Review says, “The monuments should go. Some of them simply should be trashed; others transmitted to museums, battlefields, and cemeteries. The heroism and losses of Confederate soldiers should be commemorated, but not in everyday public spaces where the monuments are flashpoints in poisonous racial contention, with white nationalists often mustering in their defense.”
In Brooklyn, New York, according to this story, “where for more than 100 years, a plaque honoring Robert E. Lee has been affixed to this tree outside St. John’s Episcopal Church, a tree Lee himself planted in the early 1840s, during his time stationed at the nearby Fort Hamilton Army base, … the plaque is coming down, to be removed by custodial staff, according to Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The diocese owns the church, which hasn’t been in active use since 2014 and is being sold.” Local resident John Hagan, displaying better historical acumen than the President of the United States, said, “Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson committed treason in defense of slavery.”
In California, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery removed a monument to confederate veterans buried there. “Since 1925, the 6-foot monument has stood in the Confederate section of the cemetery, where more than 30 Confederate veterans, along with their families, are buried. The monument will be taken to a storage site within the next 24 hours, cemetery officials said, but the grave markers will remain.”
In Birmingham, Alabama, local officials ordered workers to cover up the city’s confederate monument while they debate what they should do. “The mayor of Alabama’s largest city ordered a Confederate monument to be covered — but not removed — as Birmingham weighs its legal options in the face of a law that prohibits the removal of rebel memorials. City Council President Johnathan Austin asked Bell to do more than cover it up, and defy the recently enacted state law and remove the monument entirely.Mayor William Bell on Tuesday ordered a 52-foot-tall Confederate obelisk in Linn Park covered with wooden panels. ‘We need to take them down,’ Austin told the mayor during a City Council meeting, AL.com reported. We will deal with the repercussions after that.’ The monuments are ‘offensive to our citizens,’ he added.”
Late news out of Richmond, Virginia tells us Mayor Levar Stoney has expanded the focus of the Monument Avenue Commission to include removing the monuments. In his statement, he said, “Effective immediately, the Monument Avenue Commission will include an examination of the removal and/or relocation of some or all of the confederate statues.” In his statement, Mayor Stoney said, “While we had hoped to use this process to educate Virginians about the history behind these monuments, the events of the last week may have fundamentally changed our ability to do so by revealing their power to serve as a rallying point for division and intolerance and violence.” Mayor Stoney had favored merely contextualizing the monuments while keeping them in place. The first public meeting and the Charlottesville terrorist actions led to his change of heart.
The President and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation issued a statement today:
In recent months, many communities have been vigorously debating anew the impact, meaning, and propriety of Confederate memorials and symbols in the public space. We have received questions from across the political spectrum about our stance on this.
At the National Trust, we believe that historic preservation requires taking our history seriously. We have an obligation to confront the complex and difficult chapters of our past, and to recognize the many ways that our understanding, and characterization, of our shared American story continues to shape our present and future.
That goes for the Civil War, our nation’s bloodiest and most divisive conflict, as well. There are currently hundreds of monuments to the Confederate cause in America. They exist in 31 states, including far-flung places such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Montana. Schools and streets all over America bear Confederate names.
While some of these monuments were erected shortly after the war by grieving Southern families to honor the valor of fallen leaders and loved ones, many more were put in place for a more troubling purpose. Decades after the war, advocates of the Lost Cause erected these monuments all over the country to vindicate the Confederacy at the bar of history, erase the central issues of slavery and emancipation from our understanding of the war, and reaffirm a system of state-sanctioned white supremacy.
Put simply, the erection of these Confederate memorials and enforcement of Jim Crow went hand-in-hand. They were intended as a celebration of white supremacy when they were constructed. As recent rallies in Charlottesville and elsewhere illustrate, they are still being used as symbols and rallying points for such hate today.
These Confederate monuments are historically significant and essential to understanding a critical period of our nation’s history. Just as many of them do not reflect, and are in fact abhorrent to, our values as a diverse and inclusive nation. We cannot and should not erase our history. But we also want our public monuments, on public land and supported by public funding, to uphold our public values.
Ultimately, decisions about what to do with offending memorials will be made on a case by case basis at the community level. Some memorials can be moved, others altered, and others retained as seen fit. Whatever is decided, we hope that memorials that remain are appropriately and thoughtfully “re-contextualized” to provide information about the war and its causes, and that changes are done in a way that engage with, rather than silence, the past–no matter how difficult it may be.
We should always remember the past, but we do not necessarily need to revere it. As communities work to determine the appropriate balance, we hope they move forward in a transparent, deliberative, and inclusive way that embraces the complexity here, examines many possible alternatives, and allows for a thoughtful community dialogue that gives all sides a chance to be heard.[end quote]
Confederate heritage continues its retreat, spurred on by the white supremacist terrorists who support it.