Confederate Heritage in Full Retreat

The daily retreat of confederate heritage continues, especially in Mississippi, so we start there.

The 1894 Mississippi State Flag, like this one seen outside the Mississippi State Capitol building, may soon come down. Photo by Ashton Pittman.

First of all, we have an interactive map of Mississippi’s confederate monuments and memorials you can access here. The explanatory introduction says, “This map and its accompanying table shows monuments, buildings, counties, municipalities, highways and other locations across the State of Mississippi that were erected in honor of or named in memory of the Confederacy or notable Confederate figures. You must zoom to see all points on the map in a given area. You can switch between the map view and the list view using the tabs on the top left. Under the map tab, desktop users can use the buttons on the top left to zoom, which will make room for more labels to appear. Hold shift and click to explore the map. Hover your cursor over each marker to reveal more information about it. Under the list tab, you can see each landmark listed by city or town, along with more information, including honorees, organizations behind monuments, its location, the year of its dedication, and its current status. Depending on the size of your screen, you may have to zoom left or right to see full details.” This looks to be an excellent resource.

Things are fast moving regarding the Mississippi State Flag. First, the Mississippi Historical Society sent out this notice:

Then we saw this story saying Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves affirming he would sign a bill to change the flag. That affirmation was followed quickly by the Mississippi state legislature voting by large margins to suspend rules and allow a vote on changing the flag. The story tells us, “pectators at the Mississippi Capitol broke into applause Saturday as lawmakers took a big step toward erasing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, a symbol that has come under intensifying criticism in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against racial injustice. ‘The eyes of the state, the nation and indeed the world are on this House,’ the second-ranking office in the Mississippi House, Jason White, told his colleagues. The House and Senate voted by more than the required two-thirds majority to suspend legislative deadlines and file a bill to change the flag. That would allow debate on a bill as soon as Sunday. Saturday’s vote was the big test, though, because of the margin. Only a simple majority is needed to pass a bill.”

That move came after this: “Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Saturday for the first time that he would sign a bill to change the flag if the Republican-controlled Legislature sends him one. He had previously said that he would not veto one — a more passive stance. ‘The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag,’ Reeves said on social media. ‘The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it.’ A bill will say that the current flag will be removed from state law. A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate battle emblem but must include the phrase ‘In God We Trust.’ The new design would be put on the ballot Nov. 3. If a majority voting that day accept the new design, it would become the state flag. If a majority reject it, the commission would design a new flag using the same guidelines. ‘I know there are many good people who … believe that this flag is a symbol of our Southern pride and heritage,’ said White, the Republican speaker pro tempore of the House. ‘But for most people throughout our nation and the world, they see that flag and think that it stands for hatred and oppression.’ Republican Rep. Chris Brown of Nettleton appeared at a 2016 rally outside the state Capitol for people who want to keep the Confederate emblem on the flag. He said Saturday that the current flag and a proposed new design should both go on the ballot. ‘I don’t think we can move forward together if we say, ‘Ýou can have any flag you want except … this one,’ ‘ Brown said. ‘If we put the current flag on the ballot with another good design, the people of Mississippi will change it. I believe that. Let’s not steal their joy. They want to show the world that they’re moving on.’ Mississippi has the last state flag that includes the Confederate battle emblem — a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. The battle emblem has been in the upper-left corner of the Mississippi flag since 1894. White supremacists in the Legislature put it there during backlash to the political power that African Americans gained after the Civil War. The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the flag lacked official status. State laws were updated in 1906, and portions dealing with the flag were not carried forward. Legislators set a flag election in 2001, and voters kept the rebel-themed design.”

According to the article, “Democratic state Rep. Ed Blackmon of Canton told the House on Saturday that threats were made against him and others who served on a flag design commission in 2000. Blackmon, who is African American, said Mississippi needs a design without the Confederate design so his children and grandchildren can stand at attention when they see it. ‘We’ll all be proud to say, ‘That’s my flag, too,’ ‘ Blackmon said. The current flag has remained divisive in a state with a 38% Black population. All of the state’s public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying it because of the Confederate symbol. Influential business, religious, education and sports groups are calling on Mississippi to drop the Confederate symbol. Flag supporters say the banner should be left alone or put on the statewide ballot for voters to decide its fate. People for and against the current flag filled the Capitol on Saturday.” Perhaps next people will look at the Georgia State Flag, which is based on the First National Flag of the confederacy.

This article says, “The Republican-dominated Senate voted 36-14 in favor of the resolution to change the flag hours after the House, where Republican members hold a supermajority, voted 85-34 on its resolution. The votes on the resolutions suspended the rules in each house, allowing for the introduction of a new bill to change the flag. Under regular rules, lawmakers cannot introduce new legislation this late in the session. But in the wake of a nationwide racial reckoning over systemic racism and white supremacy, the Republican leaders of the Mississippi House and Senate, joined by a number of Democrats who have long supported changing the flag, spent much of this month working to whip votes in favor of a new flag. ‘Changing the flag is long overdue. … This is a unique opportunity, one that we should not squander,’ Mississippi House Rep. Jeramey Anderson, a 28-year-old African American Democrat from Moss Point, said in a statement moments after the House passed its resolution. African American lawmakers in Mississippi have been pushing for a new flag for decades, including former Democratic Mississippi House Rep. Aaron Henry, a longtime NAACP leader with a storied civil rights legacy, who introduced numerous bills to change the flag in the 1980s and 90s. Those bills never got a vote. Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy, who in 1986 became the first Black congressman Mississippi had elected since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, celebrated today’s ruling. ‘Growing up, I faced some of the worst of what our state flag represented. Despite that, I always knew progress was possible,’ tweeted Espy, a Democrat who grew up in Yazoo City during segregation and is challenging U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith for her seat in November. ‘Today, our state legislators helped usher in a new era for Mississippi—one that is more inclusive, equitable and prosperous. The flag is coming down!’ Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican from Clinton, first endorsed changing the flag in 2015, after a neo-Confederate white supremacist murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., prompting that state’s lawmakers to decide to remove a Confederate Battle Flag from its capitol grounds. Gunn faced pushback, though, with angry supporters of Mississippi’s 1894 flag showing up at the Neshoba County Fair a month later holding signs that read, ‘Keep the Flag, Change the Speaker.’ If the proposed legislation became law, Mississippi would not have a flag until the Legislature decided on a new one. It would require legislators to design a flag with two stipulations: It must not include the Confederate battle emblem and it must include the words, ‘In God We Trust.’ Supporters of changing the flag thought that requiring the words, ‘In God We Trust’ on a new flag would woo some conservative lawmakers who were reluctant to embrace a change. On the floor today, Mississippi House Rep. Jason White, a Republican from West, introduced the resolution. ‘The eyes of our state, the nation, and indeed the world are on this House this morning. History will be made here today. … Whether we like it or not, the Confederate emblem on our state flag is viewed by many as a symbol of hate. There is no getting around that fact,’ White said. Mississippi should not just change the flag because of outside pressure, though, he said, but because it is ‘the right thing to do.’ ‘You and I cannot carry the banner of freedom in one hand and the banner of hate in another. It does not work that way,’ White said. In the Senate, Sen. W. Briggs Hopson, a Vicksburg Republican, also urged his colleagues to vote for the resolution, saying he wanted to ensure a future where his children and grandchildren could stay in Mississippi and prosper. ‘Today you and Mississippi have a date with destiny. Destiny is calling. … I don’t know how long I want Mississippi to be kicked around because of a piece of cloth we have flying over our capitol,’ Hopson said.”

The Dallas Confederate War Memorial statue at Pioneer Park sits behind barricades, fencing and is covered in black plastic in Dallas, Friday, June 12, 2020. The obelisk statue, that is over 65-feet-tall, resides next door to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and just blocks away from City Hall. The memorial depicts the scene of a Confederate soldier standing atop an obelisk surrounded by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston. City officials are currently considering whether the memorial should be removed. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The next story we consider comes out of Dallas, Texas. “The city’s most prominent Confederate monument came down this week after winning a battle in the courts to remove it as part of a growing, nationwide movement to dismantle – or in some cases, tear down – symbols memorializing Confederate soldiers and generals. City workers on Monday began to remove the Confederate War Memorial’s 65-foot obelisk and the soldier statue mounted on its top that has stood in downtown’s Pioneer Park since 1961, just steps away from Dallas City Hall and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The obelisk was the last piece to be dismantled. Workers had begun removing the four surrounding statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Albert Sidney Johnston the previous week. The marble statues and the obelisk are now being stored in a warehouse at Hensley Field, a former U.S. Naval Air Base in Grand Prairie, according to Catherine Cuellar, a spokeswoman for the City of Dallas. The city last year categorized the 738-acre airfield as an ‘opportunity zone’ for potential development. Discussions on how and whether to develop Hensely Field have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cuellar said. The former airfield has become a catchall storage space for other city equipment, including retired police cars and other city equipment. At one time, it became a temporary home for Bentley, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was quarantined there under the care of Dallas Animal Services in 2014 while his owner, a nurse, recovered after being exposed to Ebola patients. It’s not the first time Hensley Field has housed retired Confederate monuments. A 1936 bronze statue of Lee sat in a storage crate at the former airfield for two years after being removed from its mantle in Lee Park, now Turtle Creek Park, in Uptown in 2017. That 16,500-pound statue was auctioned off by the city for $1.4 million in June of last year with the caveat that it could not be displayed in public in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas. ‘Yes, this is an important moment. But removing all these statues doesn’t end racism,’ said Karen Cox, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Removing the Confederate War Memorial from Pioneer Park came after a contested fight in the courts and in public opinion. Former Mayor Michael Rawlings appointed a task force in 2017 to give recommendations to the Dallas City Council on the future of Confederate statues, memorials, street, and park names. The creation of the task force came a month after nationwide protests calling for the removal of the statues erupted after a violent white nationalists rally in Charlottesville, Va., left one protestor dead and dozens injured.”

The article also tells us, “Last year, the Dallas City Council and the Landmark Commission voted to remove the Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park. A subsequent lawsuit challenged that decision, but an appeals court on June 13 ruled the city could go ahead with the removal. The $1.4 million sale of the Lee statue of Turtle Creek in 2019 funded the removal and storage of that statue and the Pioneer Park monument, city spokesman Cuellar said. The city spent about $396,000 to remove the Confederate War Memorial and $480,000 to remove the Lee Statue, she said. The city’s Arts and Culture Advisory Commission will consider what to do with the statues in August, she said. Across the country, protesters have demanded the removal of Confederate symbols and statues as part of demonstrations against police brutality following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. A 2016 report on nationwide public symbols of the Confederacy from the Southern Poverty Law Center found that there were more than 1,800 monuments, street names, parks, and other symbols of the Confederacy in the U.S. Texas had 68 monuments at the time of the report, the fourth highest of all the former Confederate States. The state has since removed several prominent symbols, including monuments in Houston, Austin, and other cities. An estimated 776 Confederate monuments still stand in America, according to Lecia Brooks of the Southern Poverty Law Center. ‘There’s still a lot of work to do to remove these symbols of hate,’ Brooks said. The U.S. saw two recent major calls for removing Confederate monuments. The first came after the murder of 9 parishioners in Charleston, N.C., in 2015 and then again in 2017 after the Charlottesville rally. This time, ‘we are seeing a lot of multigenerational, multiracial grassroots movements working for that change, which is encouraging,’ Brooks said. Laws protecting Confederate statues and symbols remain across the South, however, creating legal challenges to the widening demands for the statues to be removed. Six former Confederate states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, have preservation laws that put the decision to remove monuments firmly in the hands of the state, not local governments. A proposed monument preservation law failed to pass in Texas last year, but that has not stopped groups from challenging the removal of statues in the state, such as they did in Dallas this year. When communities have challenged state laws to allow them to decide to remove the symbols themselves, they have been blocked, said Karen Cox, a history professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. ‘So when people ask why the protesters don’t go through the proper channels to have the statues removed, the answer is because these states have removed all possibility of a democratic process and redress,’ said Cox, who has written extensively about race issues in Southern history and culture. Her book, Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture, details the leading role the United Daughters of the Confederacy played in erecting Confederate monuments throughout the South. ‘I’m cautious about this moment, I’m not even going to say I’m cautiously optimistic,’ she said about the current civil rights demonstrations and protests against Confederate monuments erupting across the country. ‘Yes, this is an important moment. But removing all these statues doesn’t end racism.’ ”

Next we have this story out of North Carolina, which tells us, “Right or wrong, monuments to the past are being judged by what their presence means for future generations.” True enough, but that ignores the very real fact that people in the mid-nineteenth century recognized treason was bad, and they recognized slavery was a bad thing. The SCV, of course, would like you to not believe the truth and instead wants you to believe their lies: ” ‘You can not judge people 100 years or 150 years ago by today’s values or standards,’ said Frank Powell, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans North Carolina Division. ‘Laws change, society changes, culture changes. You cannot judge people in the past by today’s standards any more than people can judge us 100 years from now.’ The Sons of Confederate Veterans, a group with more than 3,000 members statewide, is threatening to sue Governor Roy Cooper over the removal of what’s left of the 75-foot pillar, and two other Confederate monuments on the State Capitol grounds.” He’s lying. We can judge them by the standards of their time and come up with the same judgments. Most of the world, and most of the United States, didn’t want to live with slavery and thought it was wrong. They all thought treason was a bad thing. That’s how confederates are being judged. Ulysses S. Grant said they fought for a cause that was the worst cause anyone ever fought for.

The article continues, ” ‘They’ve been there more than 100 years,’ Powell said. ‘When one is moved it must be replaced within 90 days or placed in a location in similar prominence. I would argue there is not place of equal prominence in North Carolina to the State Capitol grounds.’ ” The length of time they’ve been in place is irrelevant to the fact that they don’t represent what the community believes is honorable. The undemocratic, tyannical, Stalinist law should be overturned.

Speaking of the law, the article says, “In North Carolina, state law prohibits the permanent removal of an ‘object of remembrance located on public property’ with severely limited exceptions. The law, passed in 2015 by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed by former Governor Pat McCrory, has already been cited by the NC Historical Commission in its vote against relocating the Confederate monuments from the State Capitol to Bentonville Battlefield. The statute does allow for temporary removal of monuments for public safety – an avenue that other entities, including Pitt County, is taking when it comes to its own monuments, including an obelisk outside the courthouse in Greenville. ‘We’re forming a committee to find an appropriate place to have this statue located,’ Pitt County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin McLawhown said. ‘The people have spoken. I don’t think it’s the mob, I think it’s people of good conscience. We’ve had white citizens, especially young whites, that are tired of seeing this statue representing injustice and hatred at the courthouse. I think the George Floyd movement capitalized on that.’ The I-Team analyzed state historical records and updated its previous research, counting 106 monuments, markers and memorials to the Confederate States of America and its fallen soldiers.”

The article has an interactive map showing the location of all the confederate monuments in North Carolina. Ninety-six of the one hundred four confederate monuments are on public ground. “Their presence, supporters say, is a painful reminder of North Carolina’s loss of more than 40,000 soldiers during the Civil War–the largest among Southern States. Indeed, the loss equaled 6% of the population at the time, which in today’s numbers would surpass 500,000. ‘The Union monuments tend to have the ‘Preserve the Union’ or ‘Save the Union’, whereas the southern monuments have a theme of mourning,” said Ernest Blevins, a Civil War Historian. ‘There are funeral symbols on them saying ‘this is our loss.’ The monument movement was about those communities’ efforts.’ ” Blevins is not a Civil War historian. He’s another SCV propagandist whose word on the Civil War cannot be trusted.

The article concludes, “But those who want the monuments removed said the statues represent hundreds of years of systemic oppression. ‘What more is there to say?’ one demonstrator said Friday evening. ‘It’s a Confederate statue. The Confederacy was based on keeping slavery.’ ” At least someone in this story knows accurate history. “The first of North Carolina’s monuments to the Confederacy was dedicated in 1868, but the vast majority–92–were dedicated after 1900, including three in the new millennium. The majority of them, as well, are publicly owned and stand prominently in front of courthouses, in town squares and at busy intersections. There are some that are in battlefields and some in cemeteries, and others sitting on private property such as a church (Duke University, as a private institution, was able to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from the famed Duke Chapel).”

Also from North Carolina we have this story telling us the confederate monument in Haymount was removed. “A statue in memory of Confederate soldiers from Cumberland County killed during the Civil War was removed Saturday by its private owners. The 23-foot-tall structure topped by a bronze statue of a Confederate soldier holding a gun and flanked by two small cannons came down early Saturday afternoon after more than five hours of efforts by employees of Philips Towing Service. The process, which began before 10 a.m., gradually drew onlookers to the site at the triangle formed between the intersection of East and West Dobbin Avenue, Morganton Street and Fort Bragg Road in the Haymount neighborhood. ‘Good job’ and shouts of ‘Woo, hoo!’ were some of the responses from the crowd watching as the soldier was carefully lifted off its stone base and placed on a flat-bed trailer for his departure. The monument had been at its current location since 2002 but was originally dedicated in 1902 and positioned near what is now the intersection of Ramsey and Grove streets in an area formerly known at St. James’ Square. It was originally sponsored by the Ladies Monument Association, which became the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter in 1901, as well as the Women of Cumberland County. City Councilman Johnny Dawkins said on his Facebook page that the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Daughters of the Confederacy own the statue and had it moved. A statement released by the city Saturday afternoon said: ‘The privately owned 1902 Confederate monument of Fayetteville was relocated today by its owners and placed into storage. This action was not directed or paid for by the city.’ … ‘America is going through a reform,’ Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said Saturday. ‘We’re seeing evidence every day in our community. State houses are taking down flags and replacing those. I’m glad to see there is a little more sensitivity as to what was offensive to some people, and the fact here in our community they voluntarily did that without it being an issue that the city mandated or attempted to and encouraged them to do it is a positive sign to me. I certainly do not want to speak for the owners of the statue. But I think they saw the current environment and sensitivity, and the public safety aspect, and made a decision. And I’m glad they did.’ The statue was on state property and was one of two Civil War monuments in Fayetteville. The other, completed in 1868, memorializes Confederate soldiers killed in 1865. It stands in Cross Creek Cemetery and is considered the oldest Confederate monument in North Carolina. One of five stones in front of the Haymount statue noted that it was restored by ‘concerned citizens and the groups represented here and was rededicated in 1992.’ ”

Finally, we have this video busting myths about confederate monuments. The video’s description reads, ” ‘They are saying it as plainly as they can and yet we are still having a debate in this country about what this stuff means’ — ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffrey Robinson exposed Confederate monuments for what they really are.”


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