Here are some news items that caught my eye regarding confederate monuments and the confederate flag.
This article gives perspective on the destructive influence of confederate monuments in Charlottesville. We learn, “Intimately tied to Charlottesville’s city planning projects and its persistent displacement of black residents, that context is emblematic of the relationship in the South between urban renewal and gentrification, Confederate memorialization and Lost Cause white supremacy, and the town-and-gown dichotomy inherent in university communities. The statues of Jackson and Lee not only symbolize the violence of the ongoing displacements of gentrification; they also initiated and facilitated these changes when they were first put up. Strategically erecting these symbols of the Confederacy at the edges of or atop black and nonwhite immigrant communities provided Charlottesville’s white elite with a means of physically buttressing their ever-fragile hold of white supremacy. To understand this is to understand Charlottesville’s demographic population shifts throughout the 20th and 21stcenturies and how the statues physically bisect those gentrifying spaces. Lee’s statue was unveiled before thousands of attendees on May 21, 1924, during a two-day gathering of the Sons of the Confederacy at which the city also saw KKK agitation. With the University of Virginia President Edwin Alderman giving the statue’s dedication before several Confederate memorial groups, the ceremony represented a partnership between the state university and national organizations of the Confederacy in the monumentalization of the Lost Cause.” The article next gives us the connection between the lost cause mythology and white supremacy. “The ideology of the Lost Cause posits that noble and chivalrous Confederate soldiers and leaders fought the Civil War as a conflict over states’ rights rather than slavery. According to this mythology, post-emancipation black people misused their freedom and were, thus, inept American citizens. For Lost Cause supporters, this failure of black citizenship proved that white people were of an innately superior race and, following that logic, that slavery was beneficial to all.” This ideology was carried out in the South after Reconstruction. “While mob violence occurred relatively infrequently in the Shenandoah Valley, lynchings elsewhere in Virginia and the rest of the country were often a reaction to black economic success that counteracted these white supremacist theories. Charlottesville’s thriving black neighborhood, Vinegar Hill, was a prime example of one of these successful communities. The Lee statue, which was erected just a few blocks from Vinegar Hill, sent an obvious message to residents: Public space, public institutions, and public success are not for you.” We next consider the Stonewall Jackson statue. “The Jackson statue, meanwhile, was dedicated in Charlottesville’s Court Square in 1921 during the year’s reunion of the Confederate Veterans and the Daughters of the Confederacy. Depicting Jackson riding his horse into battle, the monument was unveiled from underneath a massive Confederate flag with 5,000 Confederate-nostalgic revelers looking on. This monument to Jackson lies atop what was once a majority-black area known as McKee Row. In 1914, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors confiscated the land from its black residents and granted it to the city. The city justified its action by noting its concern about the ‘rowdy’ activity from McKee Row interfering with the Levy Opera showgoers. It also cited concern regarding the presence of young, presumably white, men ‘slumming’ through the McKee Row neighborhood. Jeffersonian disciple and journalist James Alexander rendered the connection between ‘rowdiness’ and race explicit in his writings about McKee Row, remembering it as the site of ‘buildings of importance’ that had tragically ‘declined into forlorn rookery,’ emblemized through the presence of ‘ ‘Colonel Crack,’ a demented but harmless Negro.’ To emphasize its punitive role vis-à-vis the black community, the statue itself was built over the former location of the Charlottesville jail. Panoptic and stern, the statue’s function was made clear in its position proximal to the former location of a whipping post. Jackson Park was Charlottesville’s first gentrification project. The installation of Confederate monuments was a critical component of Charlottesville’s precrash 1920s period of rapid redevelopment. While there was a surge of Confederate memorialization directly succeeding the end of the Civil War, all of the Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, and many in other Southern cities, were installed in the 1920s as a way to materialize and reinforce Jim Crow within the expanding townscape.” We learn the actions against the black community continued. “At the turn of the century, Court Square was the subject of these city planning efforts, consisting of significant redevelopment that directly impacted the residents of McKee Row. Directly beside the Jackson monument sits the Albemarle County Courthouse, and yards away stands another statue of an anonymous Confederate soldier that was constructed in 1909. Flanking the Albemarle Courthouse, these statues worked together to mark the ostensibly public and civic space of the courthouse as the ideological property of the Confederacy. Both statues sport a Confederate flag and face south, which long suggested that the courthouse was committed to upholding the values represented by the flag. Throughout the 20th century, the city of Charlottesville has precipitated multiple waves of urban renewal or gentrification. As James Baldwin put it, these sorts of efforts were actually more like ‘Negro removal.’ The planning projects displaced black residents not only from their homes and communities, but from their businesses, their sources of wealth, and their proximity to institutions of socio-political power. Installing Confederate monuments helped to facilitate and buttress these displacements both physically—by razing and demarcating the borders of black neighborhoods—and ideologically—by marking areas of political and financial power as part of the ideology of the Lost Cause. In the decades after the erection of the Lee statue, the best-known casualty in Charlottesville was Vinegar Hill. A vibrant black neighborhood and business district effectively connecting the downtown mall to the University of Virginia, it was marked as ‘blighted’ and completely razed in an urban renewal project in the mid-1960s. Its sole civic memorial is a small plaque at knee-height, obscured by potted vegetation, at the west end of the downtown mall shopping district. Its message, ‘Today Vinegar Hill is just a memory,’ is a mere salve, while the Lee and Jackson statues are perpetual wounds.”
This article by Professor Elizabeth Varon of the University of Virginia tells us about Elizabeth Van Lew’s reaction to the Richmond Lee statue unveiling. She tells us, “Van Lew had long been at odds with the majority of her fellow white Richmonders: while they supported the Confederacy, she had stayed loyal to the Union and played a heroic role during the Civil War as the head of an interracial Federal espionage network in the rebel capital. The network helped Union prisoners of war escape the Confederacy and funneled military intelligence to General U.S. Grant. Van Lew skillfully stayed one step ahead of the Confederate authorities, aware that she risked banishment, imprisonment or death if caught. Through all the trials of secession, war, and Reconstruction, her resolve to remain in Richmond had never wavered. But the May 29, 1890 unveiling of a massive equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond–an event attended by a throng of more than 100,000 spectators–was the final straw. Van Lew knew that the ascendant cult of the Lost Cause, which posited a ‘solid South’ of dauntless Confederates and loyal slaves, was designed to erase her and other anti-Confederate Southerners from the region’s public life and from its history books.” Dr. Varon tells us, “Modern scholarship has established that white Southern Unionists in the Confederacy had an impact disproportionate to their sparse numbers–by destroying Confederate assets, sowing dissension, and aiding the Union army they exasperated Confederate authorities, who devoted time and resources to trying to roust them out. In a recent study of North Carolina, historian Barton Myers found that Unionists there furnished enough localized resistance to undermine Confederate control of roughly 1/3 of the state’s counties, forcing the Confederates to deploy resources, including vital manpower, to try to stabilize the contested areas. White Southern Unionists played just as important a role in sustaining Northern morale as they did in bedeviling the Confederates. The very existence of loyalists such as Van Lew sustained the abiding Northern belief that substantial numbers of white Southerners yearned for deliverance from Confederate rule. This belief was rooted in the popular ‘Slave Power Conspiracy’ theory that elite secessionists had bullied and duped the non-slaveholding white Southern masses into accepting disunion. Northerners went to war to save the South from the secessionists, and clung tenaciously to that war aim even in the face of massive evidence that Confederates did not want to be saved. The belief in deliverance was fueled by stories of dissent and disaffection, which were widely disseminated in Northern popular culture: stories of loyalist scouts, guides, and spies lending their services to the Federal army; of refugee families accepting food from Union commissary stores; of teeming crowds welcoming Union armies of occupation; of white Southerners seeking amnesty by taking oaths of allegiance to the Union; of Confederate deserters returning like prodigal sons to the Union fold. White Southern Unionists willing to endorse and defend Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and policies played a key role in this vision of deliverance, as a vanguard who could help lead other Southerners into the light. Men such as Cassius Clay of Kentucky, Andrew Jackson Hamilton of Texas, Edward Gantt of Arkansas, and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee loomed large in Northern politics as symbols of Southern deliverance. As the head of the ‘Richmond Underground,’ Van Lew too became such a symbol. As George Sharpe, Union chief of military intelligence for the Army of the Potomac, put it, ‘for a long, long time, [Van Lew] represented all that was left of the power of the U.S. government in the city of Richmond.’ ” She concludes, “Van Lew’s life raised the question: Who counts as a Southerner? The stakes of the question were high. Defenders of slavery had long argued that the only ‘real’ Southerners were those who upheld the dominant proslavery political orthodoxies of the region; anyone who dissented was by definition an outsider. Van Lew objected to the Lee statue because it sent an unmistakable message to Richmond’s African Americans and to their small number of white allies that they must remain on the margins of Southern politics. Van Lew’s 1891 lament about the Lee statue echoed that of John Mitchell, Jr., editor of the leading black newspaper in Virginia, the Richmond Planet. In a May 31, 1890 editorial on the Lee unveiling—entitled ‘What It Means’—Mitchell asserted that Confederate memorialization ‘fosters in this Republic, the spirit of Rebellion and will ultimately result in handing down a legacy of treason and blood.’ This was a plea for justice and recognition for those Southerners who chose patriotism over treason during the Civil War, and progress over reaction in its aftermath. The South’s Confederate statues obscured the region’s political diversity, and still do. When Federal troops entered Richmond in April 1865 Van Lew felt it a personal vindication. ‘Oh, army of my country,’ she confided to her journal, ‘how glorious was your welcome!’ But the postwar era brought further struggles and deep disappointments. Reconstruction exposed the fault lines among white Southern Unionists, pitting the small number of progressives such as Van Lew, who supported the Radical Republican program of black civil rights, against reactionaries such as President Andrew Johnson, who accepted emancipation but rejected black suffrage and racial equality. Van Lew had a season of influence during Congressional Reconstruction, when President U.S. Grant appointed her postmaster of Richmond, and she used that influence to promote civil rights and woman suffrage. But her political enemies gradually drove her out of office, charging that she was too radical, and mentally unstable. As ex-Confederates recaptured Southern politics, the complex story of the wartime divisions among Southern whites was overshadowed by the ritual glorification of the Lost Cause.”
This article discusses the confederate soldier monument in front of the Albemarle County Courthouse in Charlottesville. In the article, Professor Jalane Schmidt of the University of Virginia takes on the lame fallacies normally deployed in defense of confederate monuments and demolishes each in turn. Here’s the takedown:
- “We should focus on other, more important priorities”: Yes, removal may take an extended amount of time that requires multiple steps. Do not be deterred. Your predecessors did not shy away from what became a ten-year process of fundraising, resolving contract disputes, acquiring the granite, weathering controversy about the statue’s placement (courthouse vs. Midway School), and ultimately installing Johnny Reb. The monument committee was chaired by prosecutor Micajah Woods (who never charged anyone from the unmasked 1898 lynch mob that murdered John Henry James), and joined by two representatives of the Board of Supervisors (R.H. Wood and S.A. Calhoun), three city councilors, and members of the Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and Confederate veterans. Work began in 1899. Authorization of public funding for the statue was granted by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1900, a special tax was levied by Albemarle County, and general revenues were contributed by the City of Charlottesville, in addition to private funds raised by the UDC. In short, an exclusively white group of local and state government officials, and private organizations, exerted considerable effort for a decade to erect this statue. Dismantling it may take half as long.
- “But it’s art, removing it would be censorship”: Charlottesville’s Johnny Reb statue was one of hundreds of cheap mass-produced cast bronze Civil War soldiers made in the late 19th and early 20th century by Northern foundries in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and, in the case of Johnny Reb, Chicago. (I have found no hints in press accounts from the time that anyone noted the irony that Charlottesville’s mediocre Confederate icon was manufactured by Yankee profiteers in the Land of Lincoln.) When ordering, buyers could alter the generic statue to their regional preference: the belt buckle inscribed with “US” for Northern purchasers, or “CSA” for Southern customers. Unlike Charlottesville’s commissioned equestrian sculpture of General Stonewall Jackson (the attempted removal of which is the subject of an on-going lawsuit), the nondescript statue of Johnny Reb possesses the aesthetic value of a G.I. Joe figurine. It isn’t “censorship” to remove a paltry statue from a public space and place it in a museum where it may be properly interpreted in a manner that recognizes the humanity of black community members who were deliberately intimidated by the statue’s installation.
- “You shouldn’t erase history”: The Johnny Reb statue was itself meant to erase the history of Reconstruction (1865–1877) — that hopeful post-Civil War 12-year period of bi-racial governance in former Confederate states. Johnny Reb’s champions said as much when they put the statue in place: Most of Virginia’s white leadership class was anxious about the biracial coalitions of radical Republicans and Readjusters that swayed Virginia’s Reconstruction-era and post-Reconstruction state legislature until 1885. The state’s Reconstruction-era Constitution had been passed in 1868 by a biracial Constitutional Convention, been ratified in 1869 by an overwhelming majority of voters, and had enfranchised black men. Powerful white detractors vowed to regain the upper hand, and denounced Virginia’s twenty years of post-war political reforms as “Negro domination.”Black Virginians had outnumbered whites in Albemarle County and Charlottesville until 1890, a statistic which apparently still lurked in white perceptions. The statue was installed in 1909, only seven years after Virginia’s all-white constitutional convention overthrew the gains of Reconstruction to pass the new 1902 Virginia constitution which (again) disenfranchised most black Virginians. This reversion represented, for white Virginians, a triumphal political re-ordering that was still fresh at the time of Johnny Reb’s 1909 Charlottesville unveiling. The occasion’s headliner speech by a Confederate veteran amplified the bitter complaints of many white Southerners that the rights gained by the formerly enslaved had overwhelmed the proper racial regime: emancipation was an overrated result of the Civil War, the veteran contended, since “slavery was not abolished, but changed in form and degree and in its victim, and is more widely distributed than the slavery of the blacks, since it is a change from the blacks to all.” Echoes of this false notion of white victimization reverberate today in the alt-right’s aggrieved slogan, “You will not replace us!” The 1909 orator warned the audience — comprised of thousands of townspeople, veterans, UVA students and faculty, and 1200 public school childen waving Confederate flags and singing “Dixie” — of the need to curtail the potential tyrany of the majority. The veteran proposed that “real freedom is to come out of the past through the re-establishment of the public virtues which unhallowed and wicked power [i.e., Union victory and the subsequent biracial state government] has destroyed.” Though “we are the minority,” the previously “overthrown ideas” exemplified by the honorable Confederate dead “and the noble history of this State” would be “restored,” the speaker insisted. In the context of 1909, this restoration took the form of the Jim Crow laws which were being instituted in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling which held that “separate but equal” was constitutional. So the legal system firmly supported the speaker, who continued: “The majority needs restraining, it needs law. In this land the constitution is the law and the restraint. When the majority revels against that, it is a tyrant.” The speaker invoked law and restraint selectively, rebuking accusations that Confederate monuments honored “treason,” since, he noted, not one former Confederate had been convicted. Johnny Reb, standing “at ready,” soothed the shame of white secessionist Southerners’ military defeat, while it erased the post-war era’s temporary two decade political chastening of white supremacy. Furthermore, Johnny Reb’s placement on the courthouse lawn announced that the Rule of Law was a white preserve (recall that no one was prosecuted for the 1898 lynching of John Henry James), effectively warning black Virginians entering the courthouse to expect injustice therein. Johnny Reb is an intimidating piece of propaganda.
4. “But it honors Albemarle County and Charlottesville soldiers, who were just men of their time. Taking down Johnny Reb is being “politically correct”: Removing Johnny Reb would be *demographically* and historically correct. At the time of the Civil War, 52% of the residents of our community were enslaved, and another 2% were free blacks. That is, the outright majority of the local population was relieved and jubilant when Union troops arrived on March 3, 1865 and began the process of liberating14,000 enslaved people. This is arguably the more representative history of the Civil War in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. According to the University of Virginia’s Nau Center for Civil War Studies, more than 240 black men from Albemarle County enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops, and a number of white residents were Unionists who volunteered for the U.S. Army. If there is concern for remembering the history of the Civil War, we should highlight the local soldiers whose efforts preserved the United States of America and freed 4 million enslaved African Americans. There is no public tribute to their service. The Johnny Reb statue in Charlottesville produced a dominant historical narrative which privileges the perspective of the 46% of the local population (actually, even less, when the Unionists among the white residents are subtracted) who supported secession and the maintenance of slavery. The statue’s inscription extols Confederate soldiers as “defenders of the rights of states” and hails their military campaign as one of “valor” and “heroism.” The moral injustice of this representation is not resolved (in a public space, outside of a curated museum exhibit) by simply being “additive.” Supplementing the area around Johnny Reb with a counterpoint monument to African Americans would imply an amoral equivalency between enslavers and enslaved in which “both sides” are “held in tension” to receive space for consideration.
5. “Let’s just re-contextualize it in place”: The courthouse Johnny Reb is already re-contextualized. Before the 1894 founding of the Daughters of the Confederacy, white Southern ladies memorial associations erected Confederate statues mainly in Confederate graveyards, such as the Confederate soldier memorial installed in 1893 in the University of Virginia’s Confederate cemetery. Confederate statues placed by LMAs had been associated with bereavement for fallen soldiers and veterans. But after the founding of the UDC, the statues migrated, like a Trojan horse, into the public square, where their connection with mourning transmogrified into victorious proclamations of the Lost Cause narrative. These are not Civil War memorials; they are Jim Crow monuments. The historically appropriate way to contextualize these statues is in a museum or (as even some members of the UDC now advocate), to retreat to their original place in Confederate graveyards. The courthouse, however, should contain only symbols that promote equal justice and respect for the Rule of Law as defined by the U.S. Constitution. It is contradictory to represent the forces that tried to overthrow the U.S. Constitution at the courthouse. The path-of-less-resistance solution of simply lowering the Johnny Reb statue off its pedestal (a physical position which requires the viewer to look *up* in veneration), or surrounding it with new interpretive plaques, is a half measure which would continue to display an offensive figure which has no business being there in the first place. If Johnny Reb remains, it would trivialize any new markers or modules placed in its proximity (such as that commemorating the lynching of John Henry James) by cluttering such a small space with an equivocal “both sides” presentation. Immoral positions do not deserve honor.
6. “Removing it is revisionist history, and we must ‘preserve’ history”: No, the statue itself is revisionist history which preserves the “fake news” of the Lost Cause (the notion — contrary to recorded evidence — that slavery was not the cause of the Civil War, and that, in any case, slavery was a benevolent “peculiar institution”). Green metal Johnny Reb preserves a distorted version of history that glorifies white supremacy, and the statue’s removal would serve to *reveal* our history. The installation of such Confederate monuments — protested at that time by Virginia’s African-American newspapers and dismayed by beleaguered white Southern Unionists— became anchors of what appears as a timeless landscape. In reality, their erection was part of the early 20th-century effort, headlined by Southern legislatures’ Jim Crow laws, with extra-legal reinforcement by Ku Klux Klan terrorists, to re-assert white supremacy by defining public space as “white” and restricting the movement of black bodies in these spaces. The repression was so extreme that millions of black Southerners became refugees in their own country and fled to the North during the Great Migration of the interwar period. In the case of our community, the African American proportion of the population has plummeted — as the relieved white editor of Charlottesville’s Daily Progress noted approvingly in 1902— from 54% in the 1860s to today’s 19% (Charlottesville) and 9% (county).
7. “You can’t undo history”/ “it’s part of Our history”/ “don’t hide the bad parts of history”: We can choose, and change, *who* and *what* parts of our history to prioritize and praise for the edification of the public — which is the role of public statues. There are better ways to remember history than to glorify its villains and intimidate their victims in public venues at taxpayer expense. Some argue that the statues’ meanings can morph, from one that lauded the Confederacy, to now serve as teachable reminders of the evils of segregation and remind “us” of “how far we’ve come” (a dubious argument considering the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville’s 2017 Summer of Hate, and the current virulent racism nationally). This stance, however, would still center whiteness, in that the statues would be maintained for the benefit of a white gaze, as a cautionary tale to promote the moral development of whites. For people of color (and for neo-Confederates, for that matter), the statues would continue to have the meaning they have always carried. We do not need, or deserve, to be subject to daily physical reminders in our public parks of how the Confederate States of America, and their successor segregationist Southern U.S. state governments, have oppressed us.
8. “The Confederate flag is heritage, not hate”: The statue honors the men of Albemarle County and Charlottesville, Virginia, who fought in the 19th Virginia Regiment as part of General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Thus, the front base of the statue features the familiar “Southern Cross” rebel flag. Twentieth-century Klansmen, lynch mobs, and segregationistshave repeatedly brandished this Confederate battle flag in support of their white supremacist cause. The 2015 Charleston, SC, assassin, and neo-Confederate contingents who attacked Charlottesville during the 2017 Summer of Hate waved this menacing emblem. Recently, the Charlottesville City Schools banned the symbol from its dress code because its well-established hateful associations create a hostile learning environment for students of color. In the 21st century, it sends the wrong message to maintain this irredeemably toxic 19th century symbol, in a public space, and in front of the courthouse at that.
9. “But the statue doesn’t have the same meaning today”: No public official would entertain the thought of installing a statue that honors the white supremacists who marauded through the University of Virginia campus and Charlottesville streets in the 2017 Summer of Hate, ostensibly to protest the city’s attempt to remove a Confederate statue. Yet long before and after those violent, armed alt-right gangs have come and gone, the county courthouse continues broadcasting their same values of racial hierarchy. A number of these groups promote Lost Cause ideology, and advocate for Southern secession and the establishment of a white ethno-state, modeled upon a new-and-improved Confederate States of America. The fact that many Charlottesville residents regard Johnny Reb as inoffensive, and do not associate its symbolism with the hatred that marched through our community, attests to the statue’s perverse success. Proponents of a romantic “Gone with the Wind” nostalgia for the so-called “Old South” (which was in reality a violent system of chattel slavery) succeeded in normalizing white supremacy, until the statue seems to be an enduring, innocuous feature of the landscape.
10. “If we tear down statues, we would be no better than the Taliban or ISIS iconoclasts. We’d forget history”: Although part of the intent of monuments is to project an idealized image of historical antiquity and political immutability, no landscape is permanent. Communities regularly alter the symbols in their surroundings to express their values. One of the first actions taken by the British colonists after the Declaration of Independence of 1776 was to pull down a statue of King George III — because it marked public space in a manner that directly opposed these patriots’ aspirations for liberty. (The U.S. does not have monuments for General Cornwallis at Yorktown, nor the Tories who remained loyal to the British Crown — yet there is no risk of “forgetting history” of the War for Independence.) United States troops and post-war Germans destroyed monuments to Third Reich leaders, and built monuments to their victims. No one (other than hateful far-right groups) bemoans the absence of Nazi memorials and worries that this will lead to Germans’ forgetting their nation’s history in the Second World War. Few people shed tears when U.S. troops (and many overjoyed Iraqis) pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein after this dictator’s 2003 defeat, and supporters of freedom everywhere cheered with former Eastern Bloc countries as they removed their nations’ emblems of Soviet domination. So why should a statue which lauds the soldiers of a short-lived, slavery-supporting, group of renegade states remain sacrosanct? White supremacy accounts for this appalling lack of empathy for Black Lives. Our public displays should support the universal value of human freedom. [end quote]
In this article, Dr. Ana Lucia Araujo discusses how confederate monuments manipulate history to produce a phony impression. She writes, “America said goodbye and good riddance this month to yet another monument glorifying the Confederacy and lying about history on public grounds. Visitors to Fort Monroe, the historic site where the first Africans arrived on the shores of Virginia in 1619, will no longer see the name of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, displayed across its famous archway. Removing Davis’ name is an important rejection of the manipulation of history. The individuals behind the archway sought to fulfill their political agenda by honoring a secessionist government, promoting white supremacy and denying the realities of slavery in the United States. Confederate monuments don’t preserve ‘our history,’ like some falsely argue. They instrumentalize the past to maintain a nostalgia for a white ethnostate in the public space. And as long as they stand on public grounds, this nation will never heal from its painful past with slavery. The creation of Jefferson Davis Memorial Park and installation of the controversial archway bearing his name did not occur until the 1950s—not coincidentally when African Americans were fighting for equal legal and civil rights. The United Daughters of the Confederacy, a group responsible for the creation of many Confederate monuments unveiled during the Jim Crow era, spearheaded the initiative. It was a blatant move to conceal Fort Monroe’s significance to the history of the slave trade and the fight for emancipation, as well as the truth about Davis. Here’s the real history: Located in Hampton, Virginia, Fort Monroe comprises Old Point Comfort, the spot where the first documented group of enslaved Africans brought from West Central Africa were disembarked in August 1619. The site embodies the birth of slavery in colonial North America, but it is also a symbol of freedom. During the Civil War, it was a station for Union troops, where enslaved men, women and children sought shelter to escape slavery. As for Davis, he was a slave owner and supporter of slavery. During the Civil War, which was led by Southern states to preserve slavery, he became the president of the Confederacy. One century later, his name became artificially associated with Fort Monroe simply because he was imprisoned there for treason by the Union. Black activists and their allies have long fought against the erection of Confederate monuments and demanded that the government make the nation’s past with slavery visible in the public space. About six decades after the park’s dedication to Davis, a plaque memorializing the 20 enslaved Africans was finally placed at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in the summer of 2015. Meanwhile, demands to remove the disturbing tribute to Davis grew. Finally, on April 16 this year, the governor of Virginia ordered the director of heritage assets and historic preservation officer of Fort Monroe Authority to initiate the removal of references to Jefferson Davis Memorial Park from the site. The detachment of Davis’ name from the arch on August 2 is part of a larger movement to fight the glorification of white supremacy and tell the true story of slavery here in Virginia. After the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, both George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello accelerated the inclusion of slavery in the interpretation of the two plantations. Likewise, the Arlington House, located in the grounds of the Arlington Cemetery, an estate that once belonged to the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, began telling the history of slaves who worked in the property. Plaques now mark slave-trading sites in cities such as Alexandria. Even the house where Lee spent his childhood in Alexandria now offers a tour that includes its urban slave quarters. And this October, Jefferson Davis Highway will officially become known as Richmond Highway. Davis is part of one atrocious chapter of the history of the United States. His name and image no longer belong in the public space. As the country commemorates the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Fort Monroe, it is not too late to start reckoning with the painful past of slavery and its legacies of racism and white supremacy.”
This article tells us the city of Norfolk, Virginia, filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s state law that prohibits the movement of confederate monuments without the legislature’s approval. ‘The purpose of this suit is to unbuckle the straitjacket that the Commonwealth has placed the City and the City Council in,’ the lawsuit says. ‘Because the Monument is the City’s speech, the City has a constitutional right to alter that speech, a right that the Commonwealth cannot take away.’ Norfolk is asking a judge to declare the law in violation of its constitutional rights and to issue an injunction preventing the state attorney general, the commonwealth’s attorney or anyone else from enforcing punishments laid out in state code, which include possible felony criminal charges. The suit names Attorney General Mark Herring and Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Greg Underwood — both Democrats — as defendants. Norfolk’s city attorney announced his plans to file such a case in April. The move comes as battles rage in courts and public forums elsewhere around the state and country over remnants of the Confederacy. At nearby Fort Monroe, lettering on an iron archway commemorating Jefferson Davis Memorial Park was removed earlier this month. It also follows the dismissal of another lawsuit over the monument from a pair of local activists attempting to force the city to move the monument. In that case, a judge said last month the activists failed to prove that their constitutional rights were being violated by the continued display of the monument. That dismissal may impact a thorny and protracted legal dispute over statues in Charlottesville. Norfolk’s 112-year old monument to Confederate war dead, topped with a bronze statue of a soldier nicknamed ‘Johnny Reb,’ has sat on the southeast corner of Commercial Place and East Main Street since it was completed in 1907. It dates to an era when so-called ‘Lost Cause’ ideology sought to lionize the Confederate cause in the South. In many cases, monuments to the Confederacy erected decades after the Civil War ended were meant to continue to assert white supremacy. The monument has been the target of protests in recent years and has been vandalized at least three times, once spray-painted with the word ‘SHAME.’ Norfolk argues in the lawsuit that forcing the city-owned monument to remain equates to compelling the city to say something it doesn’t want to say. To force continued speech based on what the monument is saying — the statute protecting monuments only extends to those honoring wars or conflicts — is a content-based restriction that violates the city’s First Amendment right to free speech, the lawsuit argues. In the wake of the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville and discussions about public monuments to the Confederacy, Norfolk’s City Council passed a resolution to move the 80-foot monument to Elmwood Cemetery in August 2017. Some have argued it belongs in a museum instead. The council resolution included a caveat saying the city would only move the monument once state law clearly permitted it. The lawsuit filed Monday says the city hasn’t gone ahead with the move because it’s afraid of potential legal liability. The city says vague and overly broad statutes would allow seemingly any person to take civil action against the city if they felt the monument had been interfered with, as well as possible criminal prosecution.” You can view the filing itself at the article by following the link.
This article discusses the history of the defunct “Silent Sam” monument formerly on the campus of the University of North Carolina. The article tells us, “In 1908, the North Carolina chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy petitioned the governing body of the University — the Board of Trustees — to erect a monument ‘to commemorate the more than 300 students serving as Confederate soldiers who perished in the Civil War.’ Silent Sam was completed in 1913, and spent the first half of the twentieth century mostly undisturbed and unquestioned. In 1968, the statue was tagged with graffiti and painted in the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination. Pro-monument students decorated the statue with Confederate flags and cleaned Silent Sam off. When asked to remove the flags, they did so. In 1973, the Black Student Movement marched in protest of the death of James Cates — a black student killed by a motorcycle gang in the Pit. In 1991, a Gulf War ‘Support the Troops’ rally was held on campus. Both events started at the statue’s base. Many years later in 2011, a UNC graduate student inspired new fervor by unearthing the statue’s 1913 commencement speech in a DTH letter to the editor. The speech, delivered by UNC Trustee Julian Carr, featured his account of ‘horsewhipp[ing] a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds,’ — punishment for insulting a white woman on Franklin Street — cementing in some peoples’ minds an unavoidable link between the statue and a racist history. This lost chapter prompted a renewed discussion on contextualizing the University’s history. Also in 2011, the community organization ‘The Real Silent Sam’ is established ‘to create honest public dialogue and provoke critical thought surrounding the monuments and buildings in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.’ They held a demonstration at the statue in September, where they unveiled a mock plaque that detailed Silent Sam’s history. The grassroots campaign to evaluate UNC’s history scored a win four years later, when after much discussion, the BOT agreed to change the name of Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall. William Saunders was a BOT member in the late 1800s, and the chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina, originally cited as a reason to honor him with a namesake building. Alongside the decision to rename the building, the BOT instituted a 16-year freeze on renaming any additional campus structures. Two months later in June, Dylan Roof, a white man with professed intentions of starting a race war killed nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Calls for the statue’s removal heated up. Aware of simmering tensions, the Republican powers in North Carolina, helmed by former Gov. Pat McCrory, passed Senate Bill 22, which made it illegal to remove objects of remembrance from public property.” The article continues, “Simmering anger culminated in Oct. 2015, in what is widely described as the first Silent Sam gathering in recent history that required a significant police presence. UNC Police were alerted two pro-monument groups had made plans to rally on campus in support of Silent Sam at 2:00 P.M. on Oct. 25. In what would become the model for police action at future protests, bike racks were organized around the statue as a barricade, and mobile field forces from other law enforcement agencies were on standby in a nearby building if things got violent. Although police expected the event to feature mostly pro-monument attendees, only 100 sympathizers showed up. They were outnumbered by the nearly 300 counter-protestors who came to advocate for the statue’s removal. University Police reported minor altercations between the two sides, police action at the protest was considered a success. The struggle plateaued for a few years. Cameras went up around 2015 that allowed police to stream footage of McCorkle place 24/7 from the 911 dispatch center. But in Aug 2017, a protest for a different Confederate monument, taking place at a different Southern college town, ended in death. On that day, a white supremacist drove a 2010 Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people protesting a Robert E. Lee statue on display in a Charlottesville, V.A. park. He killed one person and injured 35. Reverberations from the attack spread throughout the country. In the following days, Durham protestors toppled a Confederate soldier statue outside the courthouse, and others vandalized a Robert E. Lee statue in the Duke University Chapel, which was then removed by Duke under pressure. The University of Texas at Austin followed suit, removing three Confederate monuments in the middle of the night, 10 days before their classes began. Five days after the Charlottesville incident, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger sent a letter to Chancellor Folt, asking her to have ‘UNC petition the North Carolina Historical Commission to have the statue of Silent Sam removed immediately from its current location on campus and placed in storage.’ Meanwhile, UNC Police gathered intelligence about a protest planned for the night of FDOC 2017 on Aug. 22. It was being promoted with flyers around campus and social media posts — ‘The first day of Silent Sam’s last semester,’ some flyers read.” This all eventually led to the statue’s toppling.
This article tells us the SCV was denied permission to carry the confederate flag in Alpharetta, Georgia’s annual parade to honor Civil War veterans. The SCV had sued to be allowed to carry the flag, but the judge ruled against them. The article tells us, “City spokesman James Drinkard said the parade was started to honor veterans after the Civil War. The parade stopped being held annually at some point but was revived again in the 1950s — a time when the civil rights movement formed and demand for Confederate monuments spiked.” Tim Pilgrim, Georgia division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, showed what a dishonest person he is in the article. “Rick Leake, who submitted the Confederate group’s application, said they’d participated in the parade for about 15 years and flown the flag without a problem. Now, he said, the city is against the flag because they claim it is divisive. ‘We know it’s a lie because we know our history and heritage,’ Pilgrim said. ‘If you’re offended by the battle flag or anything about the Confederacy, you need a history lesson.’ ” Anyone who knows their history knows he’s full of horse feathers. If you’re offended by the battle flag or anything about the confederacy, you’re on solid historical ground. As usual, instead of history the SCV offers only lies and a phony version of history.