Updating Monument and Heritage Actions

We saw some action on the monument and heritage front this week, as the confederate heritage retreat continued.

As this article tells us, Hanover County, Virginia is renaming schools named for confederates. “The Hanover County School Board approved two new names that will replace Lee Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School. The board voted unanimously Tuesday night to rename Lee Davis High School to Mechanicsville High School. The board had a 6-1 vote for renaming Stonewall Jackson Middle School to Bell Creek Middle School. This vote comes after months of debate, following the school board’s decision to rename the schools back in July. In August, surveys were sent out to the community for input, with the majority wanting to see the high school renamed Mechanicsville. But most of the people who came out to Tuesday’s meeting said the names should not have been changed.”

From the article, the Confederate monument located in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse

This article from Florence, Alabama tells us, “The Florence City Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday requesting a waiver from the Committee on Alabama Monument Protection to move the Confederate monument located in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse to Soldier’s Rest in the Florence City Cemetery. A resolution was also adopted requesting approval and authorization of the Lauderdale County Commission in the removal and relocation of the monument as soon as possible. Shoals racial justice group, Project Say Something has made numerous protests calling for the removal of the Confederate monument in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse.”

Photo by Andrew Dye/Journal

In this article from Lexington, North Carolina, we learn their monument was removed. “After 141 days of protesting, LaQuisha Johnson watched as workers dismantled the Confederate statue in Lexington and removed it from the square at the Old Davidson County Courthouse late Thursday. ‘We were so happy,’ Johnson said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. ‘I feel very proud of what we’d done out there.’ The statue was moved from its site in uptown Lexington in the early morning because city officials wanted to prevent any potential interference with the statue’s move outside city limits, The Dispatch of Lexington reported. The removal came barely 24 hours after a judge dissolved a restraining order preventing the move. Supporters of the Confederate monument voiced their disappointment on social media. Others targeted the city of Lexington, protesters, the Daughters of the Confederacy and even local businesses, suggesting political motivations behind the move and proposing retaliation. On Friday, people from both sides again showed up at the site. The statue’s contentious history dates to shortly after it was erected in 1905. In the 1920s and ’30s, it served as a site for Klu Klux Klan ceremonies and in recent protests has drawn heavily-armed people publicly affiliated with white supremacy groups, according to a complaint filed by the city. The city recently fought in court for the statue’s removal because of safety concerns, citing tension between protesters and counterprotesters. However, Davidson County officials did not agree and filed a restraining order last week to prevent the city from taking down the statue. But the county said it had no legal recourse after the city and the statue’s owner, the Robert E. Lee Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy No. 324, came to an agreement to have the statue relocated to somewhere outside of the city limits. Debra Barta, president of the Daughters of the Confederacy No. 324, said in Thursday’s hearing on the restraining order that the group wished it could keep the statue where it was, The Dispatch reported. ‘But it is not practical in today’s political climate,’ she said. ‘Our goal has always been the preservation of the memorial,’ Barta said during the hearing, ‘and I fear for its safety, the safety of the citizens, and the safety of the community. People should not have to live in fear. Folks should not be intimidated by others on one side or the other.’ Though Johnson is relieved to see the empty slab where the statue once stood, she noted just how volatile protesting became over the last several months. ‘My life was in danger,’ she said. ‘Everyone’s life was in danger that stood out there.’ While she and a few others with Unity for Change, the group that took part in the protests, were celebrating the statue’s removal on Friday, a woman upset that the statue was gone got into an argument with them and accused them of trying to start a race war, Johnson alleged. She said she hopes that even if people still disagree with her opinions and with the removal, they will at least agree to disagree at this point.”

PORTLAND, OR – OCTOBER 11: Protesters stand over a toppled statue of President Theadore Rosevelt during an Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage protest on October 11, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Protesters tore down statues of two U.S. presidents and broke windows out of downtown businesses Sunday night before police intervened. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

In this article we learn not all the monument news pertains to confederates. “Protesters overturned statues of former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in Portland, Oregon, Sunday night in a declaration of “rage” towards Columbus Day. Protest organizers dubbed the event ‘Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,’ in response to Monday’s federal holiday named after 15th-century Italian explorer Christopher Columbus. The group threw chains around Roosevelt’s statue, pulling it down just before 9 p.m. Protesters then turned their attention to Lincoln’s statue, pulling it down about eight minutes later. Police say windows were broken on several buildings and declared a riot. Along with Columbus, historians have said both presidents have expressed hostility and racism toward Native Americans.” I’m not sure who they were talking to and why they are considered historians, but the people who said that weren’t Lincoln scholars. They’re hanging their hats mostly on Lincoln’s approving the Mankato, Minnesota execution of 38 Dakota people, forgetting the fact that Lincoln commuted the death sentences of 264 Dakotas. This is a conversation that needs to take place, though. We need to fully understand both Lincoln’s and TR’s relationship to the Native Peoples in addition to the rest of American/Native history. If the protestors’ actions lead to such a conversation and increased understanding, then it will have been a net positive.

Related to that we have this article from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The University of Wisconsin-Madison student government recently voted to approve a resolution that supports the removal of the school’s famous Abraham Lincoln statue, arguing it serves as a remnant ‘of this school’s history of white supremacy.’ The Associated Students of Madison’s resolution, approved Sept. 29, calls for campus fixtures billed as racist by activists to be ‘reevaluated and then removed and/or replaced based on inputs from BIPOC students.’ Among those items is the university’s historic 111-year-old Lincoln statue that sits atop the common passing area Bascom Hill. Another is Chamberlin Rock, a large glacial boulder that has been a campus fixture for 95 years. The resolution states their removal would ‘create an inclusive and safe environment for all students.’ It passed unanimously. The student government vote comes on the heels of a protest in September, during which students marched across campus wearing all black, bringing attention to their unmet BIPOC demands for the school. The top demand listed on that petition is: ‘Remove the Abraham Lincoln monument located at the top of Bascom Hill and replace it with someone who stands for the justice of all people.’ Associated Students of Madison Diverse Engagement Coordinator Chrystal Zhao explained in an email to The College Fix why the student government sided with the protestors. ‘First, I would like to say that not all representatives in ASM agree that [the] Abraham Lincoln Statue should be removed. With that said, Abraham Lincoln is a representation of ethnic cleansing of indigenous folks and the fact that UW-Madison stands on stolen land,’ Zhao said. ‘Many students do not feel comfortable seeing him every day when we used to walk to classes. And his presence on Bascom shows that UW-Madison does not care about the ‘shared future’ plan we have with Ho-Chuck people and other first nations.’ The College Fix also reached out to Robyn George, chair of ASM’s Legislative Affairs Committee, who argued Lincoln should not be idolized. ‘There’s a really great book by James Loewen called ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me.’ This and many other books touch on the harm of idolization of political leaders. The idea of taking down the Lincoln statue is tough to consider when we were only taught the good things he’s done for America, such as passing the 13th amendment. But in fact, Lincoln ordered the largest execution on American soil: 38 Dakota peoples,’ George said via email. ‘From an indigenous perspective, it seems extremely hypocritical for our university to have land recognition statements at the beginning of our meetings, buildings named after the Ojibwe name for modern day Madison, and other actions while also having a giant statue Abraham Lincoln, a huge threat to the native population, sitting at the top of one of the highest points on campus.’ George also included a recommendation in his statement to include a plaque near the statue listing Lincoln’s ‘wrongdoings.’ ‘At the bare minimum, Chancellor Blank should follow the legislation passed by student council in 2017 (Legislation 23-1005-02) ordering the placement of a plaque next to the Lincoln Statue recognizing his wrongdoings. If not, we need to ask ourselves how future generations might view corrupt and harmful political leaders of today as we continue to erase their wrongdoings from history,’ George said. University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a statement in June in response to a growing movement of students who sought to remove the statue due to Lincoln’s ‘questionable’ history of race relations. In her statement, the chancellor explained that the statue is an important campus fixture and would not be removed. ‘The university continues to support the Abraham Lincoln statue on our campus. Like those of all presidents, Lincoln’s legacy is complex and contains actions which, 150 years later, appear flawed. 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,’ she stated. ‘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,’ Blank added. ‘To give just one example – without Lincoln, public land-grant universities like ours might not exist. These universities have been engines of social mobility and economic growth for citizens who would never otherwise have had access to higher education. Yet we recognize that the very act that created these universities relied on money from land expropriated from Native Americans.’ Blank’s statement did little to quell the movement, however, as students continued to call for the statue’s removal. The student government vote is the latest entry in the ongoing battle over Abraham Lincoln on Wisconsin’s campus. In 2015, a student led Black Lives Matter protest called for Lincoln’s removal. A year later, in 2016, the statue was draped in a black tarp during another protest. In 2017, UW students called for a similar plaque to be placed near the Lincoln statue denoting the president’s involvement in condemning 350 Native Americans to death. Blank, however, noted that Lincoln played a ‘restraining role’ and said that the statue would remain.” The basics of the conversation is taking place on this campus, but I wonder if the students involved are really listening and participating in the conversation. They don’t seem to be acknowledging Chancellor Blank’s points, especially as she is acknowledging their points, treating them respectfully, and responding with historical facts. The students need to understand the counterarguments instead of ignoring them.

In this essay, Darren Barry considers “Union” monuments. “As Confederate Civil War monuments continue to come under siege for their white supremacist representations of the nation’s most transformative conflict, Union Civil War monuments and their inscriptions exist in an illusory realm of public approval. In fact, there is an inherent belief among many people that Union Civil War monuments––by their very nature––exemplify the antithesis of a proslavery racist South. As Thomas J. Brown points out, however, ‘[a]part from those that included the end of the Gettysburg Address, less than 5 percent of known Union inscriptions refer explicitly to the abolition of slavery as an achievement celebrated by the monument.’ By failing to acknowledge the Union victory as a long-overdue deliverance of the egalitarian principles under which the nation was founded, Northern Civil War monuments contributed to a collective historical ignorance that surrounded the war’s meaning and memory for decades. Rather than make a definitive statement on the Civil War’s emancipationist outcomes, the vast majority of Union monuments bypassed the issue of slavery altogether and instead expressed the war’s purpose in far more temperate terms.” He continues, “Across the entire region, Union monuments in various constructs celebrated the preservation of the United States and the defeat of a rebellious South. Still, in the frenetic postwar race to erect tangible interpretations of the war’s legacy, Northerners and Southerners found common ground. In their physical manifestations and their inscriptions, Confederate and Union memorials generally paid nondescript homage to the soldiers who had periled or lost their lives in the war. While many Northern monuments touted guardianship of the Union as the main impetus for war, and Southern monuments conversely pointed to states’ rights, the question of whether or not this was a war to abolish slavery remained unclear. In fact, anyone visiting Civil War monuments in either region was likely to get the impression that the war had nothing at all to do with emancipation.” I think Mr. Barry needs to read and absorb Professor Gary Gallagher’s book, The Union War, to understand how much preserving the Union meant to people of the time. Ending slavery did not become a war objective for the United States until the second half of the war. I was frankly disappointed by this essay. He also should stress that it was the United States that was fighting the confederacy.

2 comments

  1. hankc9174 · · Reply

    regarding the Barry essay, its apples and oranges to compare northern monuments that did not say ‘more’ to southern ones which didnt say ‘less’ .

    1. There were a few problems with that essay.

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