Confederate Heritage Continues to Circle the Drain

It’s tough to take a day off from the continued retreat of confederate heritage.

We start with this article regarding film maker Ken Burns saying confederate monuments must go. ” ‘I think we’re in the middle of an enormous reckoning right now in which the anxieties and the pains and the torments of injustice are bubbling up to the surface,’ Burns told CNN’s Chris Cuomo in a Tuesday interview. ‘It’s very important for people like me, of my complexion, to it be as quiet as possible and to listen. What I know from my reading of history is that the Confederate monuments have to go.’ Most Confederate statues were installed during periods of backlash to Black advancements, such as the post-Reconstruction period in the 1890s and the early days of the 20th century and the  civil rights movement. ‘They’re an attempt to rewrite history and to essentially celebrate a false narrative about what happened during the Civil War and to send the wink-winks, the dog whistles, as we are fond of saying today, across the generations about what the Civil War was about,’ Burns told Cuomo. ‘It’s so interesting that we’re even having this argument because the people that we memorialize, the nation’s forts that are named after Civil War generals … these are people responsible for the deaths of  loyal American citizens.’ ” The article also tells us, “Cuomo asked if protesters had gone too far in also targeting statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant, who before becoming president led the Union army to victory. ‘Of course there’s a danger in going too far. It’s the passions of the moment. And let’s think about it,’ Burns told Cuomo. ‘Let’s hold off and reserve judgment for one second and consider that more than quarter of the presidents of the United States of America, founded on the idea that all men are created equal, the guy who wrote that [Jefferson] owned 300 human beings in his lifetime, by the way. More than a quarter of the United States presidents owned other human beings. This is a huge thing that we cannot just dismiss.’ Burns’s own film has also been criticized as obscuring slavery as the primary cause of the war and promoting the revisionist ‘Lost Cause’ view of the antebellum South. His frequent collaborator, historian Geoffrey Ward, said in 2017 that the documentary would have benefited from a ‘harsher but more accurate’ portrayal of Gen. Robert E. Lee.”

Getty Images

We next consider this opinion piece on confederate monuments by Professor C. J. Howard, an architect. It begins, “Memorials are the provocateurs of the built environment. Those designed successfully capture our attention; through beauty, gesture, association and symbolism, they aspire to deliver meaning. They are civic actors as the most prominent expressions of a public’s declaration of values. Accordingly, memorials and monuments are, as cultural investments, intended to be ‘permanent’ in order to pass heritage on to other generations.”

The article continues, “These energies have brought us to a crossroads where judgments about the future of certain memorials — if not already made — are necessarily before us. This crossroads is really an intersection of three convictions. In one direction is the position of the offended, who see these markers as highly visible, physical manifestations of the most overt racism exacted by a particular culture in our country’s history. In another direction is a defensive posture of protecting the familial heritage of the Confederate South and its subversive mythologizing. Separate from both of these perspectives, but not mutually exclusive to them, is a third direction that comes from a position of defending the principles of cultural memory, heritage and civic art. The first two directions appear diametrically, irreconcilably opposed. These two perspectives could be paired with particular methods of addressing painful memories evoked through memorials — eradication of all memorials vs. apathetic, unchallenged acquiescence. Real-life models of these approaches can be identified in post-World War II Germany, with its swift, comprehensive policy of purification, and the United States, with a more laissez-faire indifference until fairly recently. Both ways present their own potential difficulties. Purging, through removal, eliminates the perceptive stain but may inhibit healing. It also may set bad precedents, allowing for a slippery slope of censorship for anything deemed offensive, thus sterilizing our culture and undermining our ability to maturely handle disagreeable things. The cautionary quote by George Santayana comes to mind: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ The difficulties of the status quo approach are more obvious: It visually perpetuates a one-sided account of our values. If someone from a far-off place, without a sense of U.S. history, visited a former Confederate town and read up on Confederate history, they might believe — falsely — that everyone agrees with the Confederacy’s values, based on physical evidence. In this way, the status quo is tone-deaf in not acknowledging its offense to members of the society it purports to serve. While, in the end, the need to remove all Confederate monuments might be the answer, the violent, unsanctioned or unilateral removal comes at a cost and misses the opportunity for discernment, dialogue, potential civil protest in the form of positive action and true reconciliation. There is room for us to do better than either of these approaches and to promote constructive acts of repair, not destructive acts of amnesia.”

The article also tells us, “Other strategies are being implemented today that are much less radical but come closer in spirit. Some of these include moving particularly offensive structures to museums, or by ‘contextualizing’ them with on-site aids, such that the narrative isn’t exclusively driven by the memorial alone. There have been more substantive attempts to counter with ‘memorials in-kind.’ Take Richmond’s Monument Avenue, where an Arthur Ashe memorial joined an explicitly Confederate line-up of memorial punctuation marks, from Stonewall Jackson to Jefferson Davis to Robert E. Lee. A contemporary anti-image of the Lee statue, entitled ‘Rumors of War,’ also was recently introduced in downtown Richmond. In the winning memorial competition entry for the city of Alexandria, Va., in 2008, I proposed a silent dialogue between a then-existing Confederate soldier — now removed — that stood in the middle of Washington Boulevard, heading south in defeat, and a new statuary of a U.S. Colored Troop soldier standing in victory, several blocks south. Though this element ultimately was eliminated from the final design of the now-built memorial for African American Contrabands and Freedmen, it would have presented an opportunity for the Confederate soldier to be reconsidered. Adding other aspects of the Civil War and slavery helps to create a more complete picture. Not only does it bring the underrepresented into the fold, but it illuminates the ‘wrongs’ by setting them beside the ‘wronged.’ Context enables education — perhaps inspiration — even to the ignorant. It also has a potential for atonement that other options seem to lack, in as much as memorials can help with the healing process. I can imagine a more radical, robust version being continued in a city like Richmond, where there are plans to remove Confederate statues. Virginia has some 227 Confederate memorials and, by my count, under 10 African American memorials of any kind. Making up for that disparity by adding many new African American memorials to Monument Avenue would be poetic — and would give an opportunity to those who wish to help repair past transgressions by offering financial contributions toward that end. The inclusion of new memorials would transform an otherwise static platform into a more dynamic scene, with memorials as theater actors in a civic confrontational drama. The solution to a ‘contextualized’ or ‘co-opted’ scene on Monument Avenue need not be a one-size-fits-all response (i.e., remove all statues) but, instead, one using multiple ‘tools’ — some permanent removals; some temporary removals, with possible reintroduction at a later time; some left intact or relocated but ‘contextualized,’ with added memorials in close proximity; some modified, to reflect a different posture; some ‘co-opted,’ to reflect new values or subjects. Imagine a contextualized scene at the current Robert E. Lee circle, with the original statue moved to the Northside perimeter while a new heroic counter-value equestrian statue is erected at the Southside, with additional actors around the perimeter and an American flag in the center where Lee’s horse once stood.”

He concludes, “Owning our past doesn’t mean we endorse all of its sins — but it can be a great catalyst to becoming a better version of ourselves as individuals, families, communities and a country. These memorials can help us get there.” It seems as an architect, he wants to build more instead of reducing.

Next, we look at this article, which shows the dishonest SCV is again peddling lies. The article tells us, “The leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans needs to reread the Bill of Rights. The group is claiming responsibility for hiring a plane to fly a Confederate flag and a banner that said ‘Defund NASCAR’ over Talladega on Sunday. It was the first race at the Alabama track since NASCAR banned fans from flying the Confederate flag at track properties. NASCAR is a private company. It has the absolute right to prohibit certain items at its tracks. Yet Paul Gramling tried to tell the Columbia Daily Herald that NASCAR was infringing on the First Amendment rights of fans by banning the flag. Who wants to tell Gramling that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private company prohibitions? From the Daily Herald: ‘NASCAR’s banning the display of the Confederate battle flag by its fans is nothing less than trampling upon Southerners’ First Amendment Right of free expression,’ Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander in Chief Paul C. Gramling Jr. said. ‘This un-American act shall not go unchallenged. [On Sunday], members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Confederate Air Force displayed its disapproval of NASCAR’s trampling upon the First Amendment Rights of Southerners. During and before the start of the NASCAR race in Talladega, Alabama, our plane flew a banner announcing a drive to ‘defund NASCAR.’ ‘It is the hope of the Sons of Confederate Veterans that NASCAR fans will be allowed the fundamental American right of displaying pride in their family and heritage. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is proud of the diversity of the Confederate military and our modern Southland. We believe NASCAR’s slandering of our Southern heritage only further divides our nation. The Sons of Confederate Veterans will continue to defend not only our right but the Right of all Americans to celebrate their heritage. We trust NASCAR will do the same.’ ”

The article continues, “There’s something hilariously bizarre about the leader of a group honoring the heritage of those who fought against the United States saying that something clearly allowed by law and the U.S. Constitution is ‘un-American.’ Even the mayor of Columbia, Tennessee, Chaz Molder, made sure to point out how NASCAR was not violating the group’s constitutional rights and that the group ‘does not represent Columbia. Period.’ ” They are also racist, as they specifically exclude African Americans from being southerners.

The article then concludes, “It’s also unclear how, exactly, NASCAR could be ‘defunded.’ Since it’s, you know, a private company and not a public entity. The only way that defunding NASCAR could happen is if its television contracts were canceled by Fox and NBC, and sponsors started pulling out of the series. That’s not going to happen. Hell, NASCAR wouldn’t have taken the steps to ban the Confederate flag if it didn’t think that the move would be a net positive to attract new viewers and corporate sponsors. The group has tried to sponsor a NASCAR car in the past, but NASCAR said no. NASCAR has not allowed the use of the Confederate flag in official capacities for decades and this month’s ban comes five years after the sanctioning body simply requested fans not to fly the flag at tracks. That request happened after a white supremacist killed nine parishioners at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina.”

GARY BAND/The Warren Record A Confederate monument which has stood on Courthouse Square in Warrenton since 1913 was removed on Tuesday evening following a unanimous vote during emergency meeting by the Warren County Board of Commissioners.

This article from Warren County, North Carolina tells us the confederate monument was removed from the courthouse in Warrenton. According to the article, “During an emergency meeting Tuesday night, the Warren County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to remove the Confederate monument on Courthouse Square in Warrenton. Before the vote, Chairman of the County Commissioners Tare ‘T’ Davis urged board members to consider the safety of Warren County citizens and businesses in light of threats made on Facebook from people outside the county to forcibly remove the monument. He added that if the monument were removed now, it could be stored while commissioners reached a decision on whether and where to relocate it. Commissioner Victor Hunt also called for commissioners to act now to protect the safety of local residents and businesses in order to preserve the peacefulness of the county. Beginning with calls to do so back in 2017 after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. — and in response to recent increased activity on social media — including a locally generated petition signed by more than 300 people, the commissioners made their decision. While recent protests and removals have been limited to larger cities, Warrenton was known to be on the list of towns to target. After the Louisburg Town Council voted on June 21 to relocate a statue on Main Street to a cemetery on Hwy. 401, Warren County officials called an emergency meeting on Tuesday. The board ultimately decided to preempt the potential for confrontation, violence, and damage to the downtown Warrenton area if protestors were to show up and try to remove the statue on their own. In 2017, then-interim County Attorney Hassan Kingsberry said that state law enacted in 2015 protects such monuments from removal. North Carolina General Statute 100 became law during the administration of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. It protects monuments, memorials and works of art — sometimes referred to as objects of remembrance — on public land from being removed, relocated or altered without approval of the state Historical Commission. However, those on public property may be permanently relocated only to a site of similar prominence and under limited circumstances. Those reasons include temporary or permanent relocation when necessary for construction, renovation or reconfiguration of buildings, open spaces, parking or transportation projects; and to preserve the object.”

We next learn about the history of that monument. “The Confederate monument on Courthouse Square in Warrenton was erected in 1913 ‘to the Confederate soldiers of Warren County 1861-1865.’ According to articles published in Warren County’s newspaper, The Record, the Warren Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy began fundraising efforts for the monument in January 1913. Placement was desired on Courthouse Square so all citizens could ‘see for themselves the evidence of the devotion of the daughters of the South to their husbands, sons and sweethearts.’ The estimated cost for the monument was $3,000, and local men were challenged to give donations of $100 each. The first three to do so are reported to be Dr. P.J. Macon, J.H. Kerr and Tasker Polk. At the time, Confederate monuments had already been erected in Vance, Granville and Halifax counties, according to the newspaper. Oct. 29, 1913, was observed as Confederate Day, when the monument was unveiled during a public ceremony full of fanfare that included a parade with a brass band, Boy Scouts, Confederate soldiers, and local and state officials making speeches. Charles Moore of Littleton, a member of the board of county commissioners, accepted the monument on behalf of the county.”

This article tells us two confederate monuments were removed from downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. The article says, “According to the Wilmington Police Department, the statue honoring George Davis and the memorial to the soldiers of the Confederacy were taken down by city workers early Thursday morning. The removal began at around 2 a.m. and finished at approximately 3:10 a.m. The statues have been the center of debate recently, after the removal of other monuments to the Confederacy in states across the country. A nightly curfew in the areas around the statues had been in place since Saturday. Wilmington City Council discussed the future of those monuments in a closed session on Tuesday, and was set to take up the issue again Wednesday, but that business was supposedly pushed back to an unknown date.”

The “Silent Sam’s Reckoning” account posted this thread on Twitter regarding the removal of the Granville County confederate monument: “The Granville County Confederate Monument in Oxford, NC was removed on Wednesday… 50 years after the first attempts to tear it down. The monument was a central rallying point in the uprisings following the 1970 murder of Henry Marrow, Jr. The Oxford monument was originally sited in front of the Granville Co. Courthouse. City officials placed it in the middle of the street in the town’s busiest intersection, forcing black residents to confront it daily. On May 11, 1970, local Army vet Henry ‘Dickie’ Marrow, Jr. was gunned down by three white supremacists in Oxford. His murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury. This case is detailed in the book ‘Blood Done Sign My Name’ by Timothy B. Tyson. On the Saturday afternoon that Dickie Marrow was buried, mourners marched from the cemetery to the Confederate monument, led by Golden Frinks and Ben Chavis. Frinks vowed, ‘What’s going to be dead here soon is old Jim Crow.’ Local officials delayed pressing charges against Marrow’s murderers. In response hundreds of local black youth led an uprising in downtown Oxford. At one point a noose was tied around the Confederate soldier’s neck, but the crowd was not able to pull down the statue. Marches and vigils continued for months after the murder. A placard was hung on the statue, ‘Black Power Strikes with the Power of a Panther.’ Every Sunday a protest was led from the First Baptist Church down to the monument. Some even plotted to blow it up with dynamite. Eventually the town of Oxford agreed to move the monument. They tucked it away, putting it in front of the entrance to the local library. In ‘Blood Done Sign My Name’ several leaders of the 1970 uprisings talked about regret for not being able to tear it down themselves. The monument was removed again this week by the town, which reported receipt of ‘a credible threat’ by someone to pull it down. The town says the statue will go into storage and they plan to hold a public process for deciding where to put it next.”

This article tells us the Missouri woman who yelled racist taunts at a Black Lives Matter march, such as “KKK Belief” and “I’m going to teach my grandchildren to hate you” found out her bad behavior had bad consequences. After losing her job and being locked out of Facebook, she decided to apologize and claim she “doesn’t represent hate.” Sure. She tells a story that we can tell from the original video is a complete lie. What do you expect from a neoconfederate racist?

 

2 comments

  1. Robert Davenport · · Reply

    I’m torn by the use of graffiti on monuments and historic buildings. I tend to disapprove of it on buildings but approve of it on monuments. Buildings are functional but monuments are both decorative and informative. The picture of the graffiti on the Lee monument seems somewhat appropriate as a protest against its original intent. The original intent should not be obliterated but it should be addressed officially as part of the monument. Battlefield monuments are different, although those moved from public places should be identified as such and given historic interpretations.

    It is useful to allow people to vent by defacing but not destroying monuments. At some future date people will be able to view such monuments historically dispassionately. Monuments are ostensibly concerned with their subject but probably say more about those who erected them. Destroying the monuments usually has no effect on the memory of the subject but tends to obliterate the idea behind their construction.

    In a way we are blessed with so much evidence of the open and flagrant disregard of generations of
    people for fellow human beings. Sometimes you hear the words from United Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans and others: “heritage not hate”. They will never be able to claim any positive heritage until they admit to and atone for the heritage of hate. The Confederate battle flag has earned the right to disappear from everywhere except for past history.

    1. Of course, if there was a process for removing monuments and no heritage protection laws, there might not be a reason to either deface or destroy monuments because they would already have been removed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: