The Racist Toddler-in-Chief attacked Bubba Wallace and NASCAR in one of his rage tweets complaining about support given to a Black driver and about the confederate flag removal. NASCAR isn’t having it. Driver Tyler Reddick responded, “We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.” See the full story here. We await the Racist Toddler’s tweet supporting the fascist racists who desecrated the Gettysburg battlefield on July 4.
Speaking of Gettysburg, we have this post about the incident. “By now you’ve probably seen what happened in Gettysburg this weekend. A loose network of right-wing extremist groups deployed around the battlefield and Gettysburg National Cemetery to ‘protect’ monuments from an antifa plot that included, depending on who you ask, flag burning, monument desecration, and facepainting for children. Although local antifa members denied the rumors and the whole thing reeked of being a hoax, the so-called militias took credit for scaring away the imaginary protesters and ‘defending America.’ Meanwhile, locals and tourists with a different perspective experienced what amounted to an unwanted occupation. For full disclosure, I wasn’t in Gettysburg this weekend—since I live downtown, I decided to spend the Fourth with my family in Dauphin County. This is at least the fourth major right-wing demonstration since I moved to Gettysburg 8 years ago. The first was a Klan rally in 2013 organized by a man who sought to rebrand the KKK but was later sentenced to 4 years in prison after firing his gun at the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally. The second was the First Annual Confederate Flag day in 2016, which resulted in a local museum labeling counter-protesters from Gettysburg College as terrorists. The third was a gathering of extremist militia groups in 2017, at which the only casualty was an armed demonstrator shooting himself in the foot. Saturday was unsurprising in a way, but it was no less disturbing. Gettysburg has a long tradition of being a flashpoint in the battle for American identity, from a massive Klan rally in the 1920s, to FDR’s reconciliationist dedication of the Peace Light, to the erection of Confederate monuments as an act of defiance against the Civil Rights Era. Although the purpose of recent right-wing demonstrations is to assert an ideological claim to Gettysburg, this place does not belong to them. They do not represent the diversity of Americans—and others—from across the world for whom this place holds special meaning.”
As the blog post says, “They don’t even represent the range of views of those of us who live in Gettysburg. Last month, 300 Gettysburgians turned out in Lincoln Square for a Black Lives Matter protest. Just days ago, Gettysburg, South Dakota, started removing the Confederate flag from its police department branding after community protests and a letter from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, explaining why our borough doesn’t use that imagery. Gettysburg is a diverse community of patriotic Americans, and we should call this weekend the same thing we did the first time outsiders with guns and secessionist flags came to town: an invasion. It certainly wasn’t a celebration of American patriotism. That explanation falls apart when you see pictures of Klan flags on the battlefield and the Confederate flag on Cemetery Hill—where it never reached during the battle.”
My friend and blogging colleague Pat Young has another post on the fascist racists. You can read it here. It’s excellent.
Licensed Battlefield Guide Britt Isenberg wrote this letter to the editor of the York Daily Record. It says, “What happened at the Gettysburg National Cemetery on Saturday, July 4, should attract our attention… all of us. Weeks ago, rumors propagated through social media channels that an intended flag burning hosted by ANTIFA would occur at the Gettysburg National Cemetery on Independence Day. Fairly quickly, it was determined by National Park Service officials that the original channels disseminating this information were completely fictitious. (This is not the first time such a thing has happened.) Regardless, false stories mushroomed out of control and stoked the flames of the nation’s pervasive political divisiveness, inspiring so-called ‘patriots’ (amateur quasi-militia groups) from far and wide to turn out in defense of the cemetery. Officials from the National Park Service claimed they had issued no permits for any protests in the National Cemetery, nor could they without a special designation from the superintendent. Per CFR Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 12, Section 4 pertaining to National Cemeteries: Conducting a special event or demonstration, whether spontaneous or organized, is prohibited except for official commemorative events conducted for Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other dates designated by the superintendent as having special historic and commemorative significance to a particular national cemetery. Committal services are excluded from this restriction. Just in case, the park took extra security measures to prepare for the expected arrival of demonstrators opposing the fictitious events. Despite their efforts and Federal regulations, hundreds of ‘patriots’ donning tactical gear and brandishing high-capacity weapons were permitted to invade the National Cemetery on our nation’s birthday. Many of them were also hoisting Confederate battle flags and political paraphernalia during their cemetery occupation. It should be noted that the National Cemetery was established as a final resting place for more than 3,500 UNION soldiers who here gave their lives in defense of the United States, not the Confederacy. Another 3,500 U.S. service men and women who fought and died under the Stars and Stripes in other conflicts are also interred there. On several occasions throughout the afternoon, interactions between ‘patriots’ and visitors to the cemetery became downright confrontational and threatening. Shouting racial epithets and explicit language became acceptable throughout the afternoon and apparently extended far outside the National Cemetery walls. Interestingly not one of the ‘patriots’ engaged in this behavior was removed by enforcement officials. The one person known to be escorted from the scene was a young man from Hanover wearing a Black Lives Matter tee-shirt. He was visiting the grave of an ancestor before he was surrounded while attempting to leave the grounds and subjected to taunts and physical threats by demonstrators. The park service claimed it was necessary ‘for his own safety.’ There were failures across the board on Saturday, from the behavior of attendees to the National Parks Service itself. The park failed in enforcing its own regulations. The National Cemetery, the most hallowed and reverential ground in this country, became the stage for playing army, blatant racism, mockery, and maybe worst of all, disrespect to the U.S. Service men and women from all wars who are interred there. All of this too occurred only yards from where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. And so I now ask you… is this new precedent acceptable?”
This article tells us, “The Confederacy lost 3,903 soldiers and the Union 3,155 during the bloody, three-day battle that raged from July 1 to July 3. Across the 6,000 acres of Gettysburg National Military Park, more than 1,300 monuments have been placed since the war ended, and approximately two dozen are dedicated to the Confederacy and its soldiers. The largest is topped with a statue of Lee on horseback. Many Confederate monuments were erected in the 1960s and 1970s, during the height of the civil rights era. A small marker for the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment was placed there in 2000, featuring the Confederate flag etched into stone. ‘Everything that’s here was congressionally mandated,’ said Jason Martz, the National Park Service’s acting spokesperson for Gettysburg. Martz said the flag is rarely displayed on its own at the battlefield unless it’s directly related to a historical event. In 2015, after a white supremacist shot and killed nine Black churchgoers in South Carolina, many of the nation’s retailers stopped selling the flag. Martz said the battlefield’s bookstore removed all single pieces of Confederate memorabilia. That eliminated approximately 11 of the 2,600 items sold there, he said. Book covers bearing the flag’s image, for instance, were allowed to stay. ‘In the case of, like, belt buckles and pins, that was removed,’ Martz said. Scott Hancock, an associate professor of history and Africana studies at Gettysburg College, said the park’s museum and visitor center does an excellent job of laying out the causes of the conflict, that the Confederacy was fighting to preserve slavery. ‘If you go on the battlefield and never go in the museum, you would never know about slavery, would never know that there was anything to do with Black people at all in Gettysburg,’ he said. Hancock said he would like to see the battlefield’s Confederate monuments put into context, perhaps with placards informing visitors that many were erected during the civil rights era to ‘protect and maintain white supremacy.’ Without that context, Hancock said, he’d rather see those monuments removed. While Gettysburg, like many small towns in Pennsylvania, has had its own Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, there have been no physical attempts to remove battlefield monuments.”
The article continues, “A few blocks away from the battlefield, the Gettysburg Heritage Center, a former wax museum now run by the nonprofit Gettysburg Nature Alliance, is phasing out standalone Confederate flags from its vast gift shop. If the shop does sell an item that features the flag, said alliance president Dru Anne Neil, a pamphlet will be included ‘to remind people that the flag’s use, from our perspective as a museum, should be used only for educational purposes within the context of the actual fighting that occurred during the Civil War.’ ‘There’s a difference between education and glorification,’ Neil said. … At Flex & Flannigan’s, another gift shop on Steinwehr, owner Erik Crist welcomes the renewed push for flag bans, because he sells more of them. Confederate items outsell Union pieces ’10 to 1.’ … Customers can buy Confederate bathing suits, swim trunks, bedsheets, and shower curtains. One bumper sticker reads: ‘I believe the South was right. And I don’t believe in slavery then and now.’ Crist even helps customers pick a more obscure Confederate flag if they’re nervous about blowback from neighbors. ‘We tell them to fly the first Confederate flag, because no one knows what it is,’ he said. ‘That’s my secret.’ That flag features seven white stars on a blue canton with a field of three alternating stripes, two red and one white. Above the door, Crist displays an ‘Advance the Colors’ award the store received in 2015 from the Sons of Confederate Veterans for continuing to sell the rebel flag. Customer Merle Toms, of Frederick County, Md., bought the more conspicuous flag — a few of them. ‘Why? Because everybody else is against it,’ Toms said. Kenneth Huston, president of the Pennsylvania NAACP, said there’s no safe space for the flag, even in Gettysburg, and no room to discuss its meaning. ‘The flag represents hate,’ he said. ‘It’s not a symbol that we as a civil rights organization want to be seen anywhere. That flag was a terror symbol for Black people. It should not fly.’ ”
Proving once again that confederate monuments are racist icons, the racists have retaliated for their monuments taking the plunge by vandalizing the statue of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, New York. This article says, “The statue of abolitionist Frederick Douglass at the Maplewood Rose Garden was torn down on Sunday, the anniversary of his famous July 5, 1852 ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July’ speech. Rochester Police Department officers found the statue removed from its base with damage to the statue and base pedestal. The damaged statue was located 50 feet from the pedestal. The statue had been placed over the fence near the gorge and was leaning against the fence, according to police. In addition to the damage at the bottom of the statue, one of the fingers on the left hand of the statue was damaged. The statue has since been recovered and removed from the location for repairs. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.”
This article on the same subject says, “Douglass lived in Rochester for decades, and the statue was one of 13 monuments to him erected throughout the city.” It also tells us, ” Carvin Eison of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project, which brought the statues to the city, told the newspaper that the statue is too badly damaged to be repaired and will need to be replaced.”
This article tells us the Stonewall Jackson monument at Manassas was spray-painted with “BLM.” It’s since been cleaned. Personally, I’d like to see this monument replaced by a historically accurate depiction of Jackson.
Professor Ronald Angelo Johnson as this column, which tells us, “Confederate symbols cannot be credibly detached from their disturbing history in support of slavery and the preservation of white supremacy. Texas’ role in that history should be remembered, not venerated. Hays County residents can love our state and regret parts of its history. … I was born and raised in East Texas, surrounded by Confederate symbols, including the flag and ubiquitous bumper stickers proclaiming, ‘the South will rise again.’ Symbols carry meanings. That’s why questions of removing them evoke so much emotion. There, the symbols empowered white American schoolmates to call me the n-word. They affirmed a culture of racism responsible for a jarring disruption of my childhood innocence: regularly watching white Americans call my father ‘boy,’ bringing down the biggest man I’ve ever known, right in front of me. Since arriving in Kyle, a decade ago, greeted by Confederate flags and debates over ‘Dixie,’ students have assaulted my children with the n-word and felt entitled to physically abuse them ‘because you are Black.’ Symbols carry meanings. HCISD teachers and officials have been relentless in their care for my kids after these unfortunate, unforgettable incidents. A positive move toward emphasizing that all kids matter equally in Hays CISD is to retire the Rebel mascot. The Confederate symbols of my childhood said to Black residents, ‘This is our town, our Texas; not yours.’ The ‘South’ of the slogan referred to a Texas that enslaved Black residents, a Texas that lynched Black men after church services, and a Texas that did not permit black and white children to attend school together. The symbols, their message, and the mistreatment were real. And, they were wrong. That was our town equally as it was theirs. Confederate symbols have no place in Kyle. My family may not be from here, but Kyle is our home. The Texas that Confederate symbols represent no longer exits. It’s history. Let’s replace the street name with one that reflects the city and the state we have become and hope to be.”
This article tells us Boston is going to remove its replica of the Freedmen’s Memorial and a group of students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison want the university’s statue of Abraham Lincoln removed because they claim it’s a symbol of white supremacy. The article tells us, “A group of university students in Wisconsin are calling for the removal of Abraham Lincoln’s statue at their campus, calling it ‘a symbol of white supremacy’, as Boston’s arts commission voted unanimously to remove a statue that depicts a freed slave kneeling at Lincoln’s feet. Boston’s Emancipation Memorial, a copy of an identical monument that was erected in Washington, D.C., in 1876, has stood in a park just off Boston Common since 1879. On Tuesday night the commission approved its removal, after more than 12,000 people signed a petition demanding the statue’s removal. ‘What I heard today is that it hurts to look at this piece, and in the Boston landscape, we should not have works that bring shame to any groups of people,’ said Ekua Holmes, vice chairperson of the arts commission. ‘After engaging in a public process, it’s clear that residents and visitors to Boston have been uncomfortable with this statue,’ said Marty Walsh, mayor of Boston. Officials did not immediately set a date to take it down, and said details would be worked out at their next meeting on July 14. Their decision came as the University of Wisconsin wrestles with complaints over its statue of Lincoln. That statue, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has sat on top of Bascom Hill, looking down State Street toward the Capitol Dome, since 1906. New students rub Lincoln’s left shoe for good luck, and his lap often serves as a prop for seniors seeking a commencement photo. Yet in light of a wave of statues being pulled down across the country, following George Floyd‘s May 25 killing and subsequent protests, the Black Student Union and Student Inclusion Committee are calling for Lincoln’s removal from their campus. ‘For him to be at the top of Bascom as a powerful placement on our campus, it’s a single-handed symbol of white supremacy,’ said Nalah McWhorter, Black Student Union president, in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal.”
The article also says, “She told the Badger Herald: ‘I just think he did, you know, some good things. ‘The bad things that he’s done definitely outweighs them. ‘And I do want the 100 per cent removal of the statue. I don’t want it to be moved somewhere or anything like that. I want it removed.’ A petition to have the statue removed has gained more than 360 signatures. Last week protesters took matters into their own hands, and two statues at the state Capitol were toppled – one of Civil War abolitionist Hans Christian Heg and another of a female figure that represents the state’s ‘Forward’ motto. Supporters of Lincoln’s removal point out that he ordered the largest mass execution in U.S. history, condemning 38 Dakota men to death by hanging in Minnesota in 1862. He signed the Homestead Act, which provided settlers with land taken away from Native Americans who were pushed onto reservations. And they say he was racist, despite being against slavery. n 1854 in Peoria, Illinois, he said: ‘My ancient faith teaches me that ‘all men are created equal’; and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.’ Yet four years later, during a debate speech, he argued that there is a physical difference between black and white races and that he favored the ‘superior’ position assigned to the white race, according to a Chicago Tribune report. ‘There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality,’ Lincoln is quoted as saying. Wisconsin is the home of the Republican Party, which was born out of a movement to end slavery. ‘I think when people say, okay, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves,’ said McWhorter. ‘I think that’s looking at a very small piece of his presidency at the time. ‘So you can kind of see here you freed the slaves, but you also did this and this and this and that. And then when you show that to people, it’s kind of hard to deny those facts in history.’ The movement to remove the statue is strongly opposed by the university’s chancellor, Rebecca Blank. ‘As the leader of UW-Madison, I believe that Abraham Lincoln’s legacy should not be erased but examined, that it should be both celebrated and critiqued,’ she said. In 2015, a different student group called ‘About Race UW’ created a list of demands, including the removal of Lincoln from Bascom Hill. The idea was abandoned after being seen as ‘too extreme’ within the black community. More recently, the university’s student government called in 2017 for the addition of a plaque recognizing Lincoln’s role in the deaths of the 38 Native Americans. Blank declined, saying Lincoln’s role in the matter was ‘restrained’ and he had refused a territorial governor’s proposal to sentence 350 others to death. In the years since, Blank has not changed her position on keeping Lincoln just outside her office in Bascom Hall. ‘Like those of all presidents, Lincoln’s legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed,’ she said. ‘However, when the totality of his tenure is considered, Lincoln is widely acknowledged as one of our greatest presidents, having issued the Emancipation Proclamation, persuaded Congress to adopt the 13th Amendment ending slavery and preserved the Union during the Civil War.’ ”
The article continues, “Manisha Sinha, a University of Connecticut professor and Civil War historian, said she would be ‘horrified’ if UW-Madison took Lincoln’s statue down. She characterized the recent push to expand statue removal beyond Confederate generals and other obvious symbols of slavery to include widely celebrated individuals with complicated pasts, such as slave-owning presidents, as ‘misplaced.’ ‘History is complex and nuanced and a lot of the figures we revere, like (George) Washington or Lincoln, are not perfect in all things,’ she said. ‘We should be able to tell that complex story instead of saying, “This guy was all bad and we should get rid of him.” ‘You could destroy our entire history because it’s based entirely on dispossession of Native Americans.’ Blank said that progress at her university had been made. Last summer the university installed a plaque on Bascom Hill acknowledging that the campus was built on Ho-Chunk land, and hired its first tribal relations director in the fall. The Wisconsin Union renamed two of its spaces previously named after prominent alumni who, while students in the 1920s, belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. And a multi-year public history project is underway to collect stories of individuals who experienced and overcame prejudice on campus. ‘Everyone agrees that there is much more to do,’ Blank said, adding that some new commitments will be announced in early July. UW-Madison students of color said recent efforts are appreciated but do little to overcome the daily isolation of living on a campus where 2 per cent of the student body is black and less than 1 per cent of students are Native American. McWhorter, a junior studying marketing and management, said she understands the university is overwhelmed with challenges right now amid the pandemic and associated economic fallout. ‘But I do wish to see more action to show that black students do really matter here,’ she told the Chicago Tribune. ‘It’s a lot of talk about how they support us, but I just want to see more done.’ ” Ms McWhorter needs to take a few history classes, and this issue is a great learning opportunity for her. Being young, she probably thinks she knows everything she needs to know already. As we know, she’s wrong. But I hope she gets to learn more about Abraham Lincoln and what he’s done, and to learn more about the complexity of historical figures.
Socialist political candidate Niles Niemuth has this column at the World Socialist Website opposing removal of the Freedmen’s Memorial. He writes, “That such an attack on Lincoln and the progressive legacy of the Civil War can take place in Boston, the cradle of the American Revolution that contributed so much to the fight against the slave power, is an indication of deep historical ignorance among the general population that has been encouraged by the Democratic and Republican parties for their own political purposes.”
Professor Elizabeth Varon has this erudite essay on the Emancipation Memorial that wasn’t erected. She writes, “Its design was a striking inverse of the ‘kneeling slave’ motif and a bold rebuttal of the idea that Lincoln bestowed emancipation as a gift. In this monument—which lived a brief evocative life in words and images, though it never took the form of granite and bronze—a black Civil War officer, André Cailloux, stood at the apex with white politicians arrayed at the base. The story of this project, and of its principal champion George W. Bryant, challenges us to reimagine how we remember and represent the Civil War.”
Professor Varon continues, “The National Emancipation Monument was the brainchild of a group of African Americans in Springfield, Illinois, led by Republican ward leader and grocer N.B. Smallwood. With the help of a local architectural firm and in consultation with some prominent Republican politicians they devised a design in which a 74-foot plinth (with that number illustrating the number of years, from 1789 to 1863, that the American republic had condoned slavery) would be topped by a giant bronze statue of a black Union soldier. The obelisk’s base would be adorned by smaller statues of eight heroes in the emancipation story: President Abraham Lincoln; white abolitionists Charles Sumner, John Brown, Wendell Phillips, Owen Lovejoy, and William Lloyd Garrison; the iconic black leader Frederick Douglass, and the pioneering black politician Robert Brown Elliott, who served in South Carolina’s Reconstruction-era legislature. The obelisk itself would be inscribed, the Illinois State Journal noted, with ‘dates and historical incidents connected with the slavery of the colored race in North America.’ The project’s progenitors, who formed a corporation called the National Emancipation Monument Association, planned to raise most of the total estimated cost of the monument—$150,000–through donations from black churches and lodges and individual subscriptions. They hoped too to secure some support from the state of Illinois. Early press coverage of the association’s fundraising efforts for the project emphasized the theme of black gratitude to white deliverers: as the New York Tribune noted in a March 1889 article entitled ‘Grateful Freedmen,’ it was ‘peculiarly appropriate’ that Springfield blacks should ‘build a monument to the memory of Lincoln, Seward, Sumner, Phillips and John Brown’; Seward was subbed in for Lovejoy in this account, and no mention was made of Douglass and Elliott. The figure standing atop the obelisk was typically characterized as a generic nameless ‘colored soldier,’ who, as the Chicago Tribune put it, ‘left the menial work of the slavemasters and, acquainting himself with the practice of war, battled for the freedom of himself and loved ones.’ Fundraising went slowly at first and the Illinois legislature rejected a bid for a $5000 state appropriation for the project on the grounds that not enough progress had been made from private funds. The project’s fortunes seemed to improve in 1891 when the association recruited the dynamic George W. Bryant as its principal commissioner and spokesman. Born enslaved in Kentucky in the early 1850s, Bryant escaped to the North through the Underground Railroad, and he eventually made his way to Washington, D.C. where he joined the Union army as a teenager in 1864, serving in the 23rd USCT infantry regiment. After the war he became an A.M.E. minister and a physician, settling in New Orleans and then in St. Louis and Nashville and finally Baltimore. He also was active within the venerable Union veterans’ organization the Grand Army of the Republic, and as a Republican party operative, getting out the vote for candidates such as James Garfield. Most notably, Bryant travelled widely to give speeches on a wide range of religious, historical, and political themes, earning a reputation, as the influential black newspaper the New York Age put it in 1887, as one of the ‘greatest orators in the South.’ ”
Professor Varon also tells us, “Under Bryant, the monument association became more ambitious in its reach and bolder in its message. As he travelled across the country giving fundraising lectures and organizing auxiliaries in states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts, Bryant told his audiences that the memorial was not only a tribute to emancipation but expressly a “monument to colored veterans,” and to one man in particular: Captain André Cailloux. It was Cailloux whose form, cast in bronze, would grace the top of the obelisk. Whether it had always been the intention of the designers to model the crowning statue after Cailloux or whether this was Bryant’s own intervention remains unclear. But the symbolism of this choice was unmistakable. Cailloux, a formerly enslaved artisan who entered the ranks of New Orleans’ distinctive class of gens de couleur libre before the war, died in battle leading a brave though futile charge against Confederate defenses at Port Hudson, Louisiana in May of 1863. With his conspicuous valor, the martyred Cailloux became the first African-American military hero of the war, his sacrifices celebrated in newspaper articles, poems, and in a massive funeral procession in Union-occupied New Orleans. Cailloux represented the small but influential vanguard of black commissioned officers in the Union army, the vast majority of whom were drawn from New Orleans’ Afro-Creole milieu and served in Louisiana regiments. The approximately 110 African American men who were commissioned at the rank of lieutenant or above made their mark. Although Cailloux fell in battle, and although his fellow black officers in Louisiana regiments were soon purged from the Union army rolls on the grounds that black men should not wield the power to command whites, Cailloux’s comrades-in-arms held up his heroism as a vindication. The purged officers of the Louisiana Native Guards would form a political phalanx, leading the charge for civil rights. In the spring of 1864, they petitioned Lincoln and the Congress to enfranchise black men in Louisiana; Lincoln followed up by writing his now famous March 13, 1864 letter to Louisiana governor Michael Hahn suggesting that black veterans could perhaps be granted the right to vote. In the fall of 1864, Port Hudson veteran Captain James H. Ingraham invoked Cailloux’s memory as a source of inspiration for the delegates to the National Negro Convention in Syracuse, N.Y., as they founded the National Equal Rights League. Cailloux’s name reverberated in black politics for decades: G.A.R. and Equal Rights League chapters were named after him, and his praises were sung by leading black intellectuals such as William Wells Brown and George Washington Williams. The story of Cailloux exemplified black men’s fitness for leadership at the national level. This was Bryant’s message as he travelled his fundraising circuit, promoting the monument at Emancipation Day ceremonies and Grand Army of the Republic gatherings. Bryant and the association set their sights on the upcoming World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Chicago’s massive World’s Fair, proposing to the white managers of the massive celebration that the statue should be erected at the Jackson Park fairgrounds, or, failing that, that a smaller-scale facsimile model of the statue should be displayed at the exposition. By the summer of 1892 the association had raised $65,000 of the necessary $150,000. But in the following two years, the project lost steam and faded from sight. There is no indication that the memorial facsimile was ever displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair. One of the very last mentions of the monument in the press was a September 2, 1894 article in the black newspaper the Sacramento Bee, entitled “Liberty’s Monument.” The article described the memorial’s design, emphasizing that ‘the crowning statue will be a bronze representation of Captain André Cailloux and will be thirty feet high. The Captain was one of the bravest soldiers in the entire Union army, and even at the time of his death, at the battle of Port Hudson, after he had been shot twenty-six times, he seized the regimental colors from a dying color guard and held them aloft, sending back word to his colonel that the colors had not been in the dust.’ Here was a powerful image not of a grateful slave who was gifted freedom but of a heroic leader who helped save the republic.”
She concludes, “So why was ‘Liberty’s Monument’ never finished? The financial obstacles were clearly daunting: the price tag for the monument was very high, and the Springfield location would have been inaccessible to most. We can glean additional clues from Bryant’s own travails. Signs of trouble began to emerge in 1892 when support promised by prominent whites failed to materialize. That July, a major event at Irving Park, Maryland, to celebrate emancipation, proved a setback as honored guests—including President Benjamin Harrison and Republican vice presidential nominee Whitelaw Reid—failed to show up. Later that summer, some newspapers circulated rumors that Bryant was a fraud, collecting donations under false pretenses—the president of the monument association, N.B. Smallwood, tried to stamp the scurrilous gossip out, confirming that Bryant was ‘the duly accredited agent of the association and is authorized to make collections for it,’ but the rumors may have damaged his cause nonetheless. The broader context for these setbacks was the acute crisis in race relations that unfolded at the very moment Bryant was promoting the monument. As the scourges of lynching, disfranchisement, and Jim Crow segregation engulfed the South, Bryant used his bully pulpit to speak out against white supremacist terrorism. At a June 1892 mass meeting in Boston’s Tremont Temple, protesting against lynching and ‘demanding the punishment of the perpetrators,’ Bryant thundered ‘the praying time is over, and the reaping time is near at hand’ and that if blacks ‘could not find a Lincoln or Seward in the north they could and would find a black John Brown in the south.’ Six months later, at a January 1, 1893, event in Philadelphia to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Bryant arraigned ‘the press, the pulpit, and many of the State Legislatures’ of the North for ‘lacking the moral courage to defend their black brethren of the South from being burned alive, flogged and lynched without semblance of law.’ In the face of rampant anti-black proscription and violence, surely it seemed to many of Bryant’s listeners that survival and self-defense and political action were more urgent priorities than building statues. Bryant increasingly turned his attention to party politics, intent on the electoral defeat of Southern Democrats. When he died in 1901, the story of the National Emancipation Monument Association died with him. Ultimately, the most important explanation for why the Springfield Emancipation Monument was never built can be found in the influential 1893 pamphlet The Reason Why the Colored American is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition by Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglass, Irvine Garland Penn, and Ferdinand L. Barnett. Addressing the broad policy of racial exclusion at the Fair, Douglass observed, ‘We have long had in this country, a system of iniquity which possessed the power of blinding the moral perception, stifling the voice of conscience … That system was American slavery. Though it is now gone, its essential spirit remains.’ Douglass and his fellow authors recognized that they would be censured for dwelling on America’s sins at a moment of national pride and celebration. But they asked their readers to be seekers of the truth. Perhaps it would have been more pragmatic for George W. Bryant, as he sought white allies for the emancipation monument project, to emphasize the themes of black gratitude and sectional reconciliation—to sing the praises of Lincoln rather than Cailloux. But Bryant chose to be a seeker of the truth. Perhaps he reckoned that if, like Cailloux had, he fought this losing battle with conspicuous bravery, he would help the righteous ultimately to win the war.”
This article is an excellent interview with my friend and blogging colleague Kevin Levin. In one answer he says, “Confederate monuments play a crucial role in many of these communities. In many places they dominate their local public places. In court house squares, this would have been a place where residents of the community vote and where they went to seek justice. So to have to walk to a court house square and walk by a monument of a Confederate era soldier, what message does it send to a white person compared to a Black person? Whose history is given legitimacy? Who’s made to feel like a second class citizen as opposed to a full member of society? These monuments don’t just maintain or reinforce a historical memory. This memory then shades into political control. If you have no history, if Blacks never wanted to be free, if they didn’t fight against the Confederacy, and they were fine with the status quo, then they never have to be acknowledged as first class citizens. So history and politics intersect when it comes to these monuments, and also maintain a white unity, to remind them what their ancestors fought for and what they continued to fight for through the 20th century and into today. I think there is a crucial distinction between history and celebration. History is the critical analysis of the past through the available historical record. Historians ask questions, interrogate sources, and interpret events. History is constantly being revised. We learn more, uncover new evidence, and revise interpretations. People will often say by taking down a monument you are erasing history. Monuments are intended to be timeless. They attempt to say something about the values of a people, and who we take ourselves to be as a community, a state, and a nation. However monument building is not engaging in history, and that’s often a distinction people run roughshod over.”
In the “Tying It Together” podcast, host Tim Boyum looks at confederate monuments and discusses the issues with Professor William Sturkey of UNC-Chapel Hill, Professor Adam Domby of the College of Charleston, and an SCV type with no historical understanding. You can access that podcast here.
Meanwhile, confederate heritage continues to retreat in spite of the efforts to strike back. We have this story from West Virginia. “The public middle school with West Virginia’s highest percentage of Black students will no longer be named after a Confederate general, the Kanawha County Board of Education decided Monday. The vote was unanimous in favor of removing the name of Stonewall Jackson from Stonewall Jackson Middle, on Charleston’s West Side. A new name has not yet been selected, and it wasn’t yet clear how one would be chosen. Becky Jordon, whom the school board unanimously picked Monday as its new president, said Superintendent Tom Williams would work with the school’s principal on that process. Jordon said the board will ultimately choose the new name. Board member Tracy White said she would like to see a committee formed, and board member Ryan White (no relation) said it should include members from the school and some members appointed by each board member. The new name will be chosen by Oct. 15. Among the names suggested by those who pushed for the change are Booker T. Washington, who was enslaved as child and spent much of his youth in Malden and founded Tuskegee University; and Katherine Johnson, the West Virginia-born mathematician whose calculations accomplished the United States’ first spaceflight and humanity’s first voyage to the moon. Both were Black. All the board members are white. Roughly 150 people had shown up to the county school system’s headquarters on Elizabeth Street by the 4 p.m. start of the meeting. The vast majority, if not all, wore masks. Leisha Gibson, a Black woman who until recently lived on the West Side, sat on a curb just above the sidewalk holding a sign that said ‘Change the Name.’ She sang the Civil Rights anthem ‘We Shall Overcome,’ with an altered verse inserted. ‘Oh deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall change the name, someday,’ she sang. The school, opened in 1940 as a high school, has borne Jackson’s name for 80 years. Bishop Wayne Crozier, a Black pastor of a church on Charleston’s East End, was a lead organizer of the push to change the name. He said he wanted a tangible victory from this historic national moment, in which protests against racism have swept the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death. A now-former Minneapolis police officer has been charged with killing Floyd, and three others have been charged with aiding and abetting the killing. Crozier, the first speaker at Monday’s meeting, told the board that he believed — correctly, it turned out — that they would all support the change. So he talked about a future goal, one West Side community members have struggled with in the past: raising the school’s test scores. ‘This is not just about a name, this is about a culture change,’ he said. As he finished speaking, a cheer from the crowd was heard outside. As part of the backlash, protesters have been successfully pushing to remove Confederate monuments from public spaces and to rename buildings that honor Confederates.”
The article goes on to say, “The middle school, formerly a high school, was built on a former plantation and originally allowed white people only. But today, it’s 42% Black — the highest proportion among public middle schools in West Virginia, according to the state Department of Education. According to Jackson biographer James I. Robertson Jr., Confederate Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was born in Clarksburg in 1824, when it was still part of Virginia. He rose from a rough childhood to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, fought in the Mexican-American War and taught at the Virginia Military Institute, according to Robertson. Jackson joined the Confederacy after Virginia’s secession from the United States in 1861. He became famous for his victories against the Union army in the Civil War, which saw hundreds of thousands of Americans killed and was fought largely by the Confederacy to preserve slavery. ‘Jackson repeatedly sought permission to lead a force into northwest Virginia to save his home area from being kept in the Union by federal invaders,’ Robertson wrote in an entry on Jackson in the West Virginia Encyclopedia, a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council. Jackson died from friendly fire that resulted in pneumonia on May 10, 1863, about a month before West Virginia officially became a state after seceding from Virginia. Jackson, himself, owned enslaved people. In 2015, the board, which had two different members back then, didn’t heed a call to change the name. That failed push came from local professor Gregg Suzanne Ferguson, who had been a substitute teacher in the school and a counselor at a nearby elementary school. She said she faced public ridicule from board members, along with threats from others, at that time. Ferguson, who is Black, was part of this year’s successful push. The school system limited how many people could enter the board room Monday, citing the pandemic, so she and others gathered around a car out front to listen to the vote. ‘I am quivering right now,’ she said. ‘I feel like I’m on a cloud.’ ‘On one hand I’m overjoyed, on the other hand, it’s bittersweet,’ she said. ‘I wish it didn’t have to take the deaths of unarmed black men to raise our consciousness.’ But she said ‘it’s better late than never, and we can move forward from this point, understanding that we have allies in high places, and our educator-colleagues really do care about the whole child.’ “