Checking in on Confederate Heritage

It’s been awhile since we checked in on confederate heritage’s retreat across the land.

As this article tells us, two possible future racists at a Texas high school face disciplinary measures for wearing confederate flag attire at the school in violation of the school’s dress code. “Two Texas students are facing disciplinary action after wearing confederate flag attire to their Houston-area high school. A photo of them is circulating within the community and sparking criticism from parents and leaders. It shows two Pearland high school students wearing confederate flag clothing. It didn’t take long before the photo sent shockwaves through the area. As you can see from the photo, even if you are someone who respects the confederate flag, you have to disapprove of this method of display, using it as an article of clothing and sweating all over it. In any event, I hope the two students get educated and ditch the racist symbology. Kids often do dumb things, so we shouldn’t really hold this against them. We’ll see how they behave once they know more.

The Confederate flag flies outside the Marshall County Courthouse in downtown Albertville, Alabama. (Paul Gattis | pgattis@al.com)

In this article from Albertville, Alabama, we learn the Sons of Confederate Veterans removed the flag flying outside the Marshall County Courthouse and “replaced it with a replica of a flag that was first presented to the Alabama Secession Convention in 1861. The flag features a rattlesnake coiled in a cotton plant with the words ‘Noli me tangere,’ which is Latin for ‘touch me not.’ Sons of Confederate Veterans 1st Lt. Commander Joe Smith says the group will meet again Monday to discuss if or when they will put the Confederate flag back up.”

A flag marking Alabama’s seceding from the United States prior to the Civil War has replaced a Confederate flag outside the Marshall County Courthouse in Albertville on Nov. 12, 2020. (Paul Gattis | pgattis@al.com)

As the article continues, “The flag and a Confederate monument that also bears the same flag have been the subject of controversy in front of the courthouse in Albertville for months.”

The Confederate monument sits next to the Confederate flagpole outside the Marshall County Courthouse in downtown Albertville. (Paul Gattis | pgattis@al.com)

The article also says, “The original version of the 1861 flag currently flying at the courthouse – sometimes referred to as the Republic of Alabama flag – flew over the Capitol in Montgomery for about a month before it was damaged by weather and removed, according to state archives.”

Photo by Paul Moon, The News-Record & Sentinel

This article from Madison County, North Carolina, tells us, “

A plaque honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee mounted to a nearly 6-foot tall stone outside the Madison County Courthouse in Marshall was discovered missing early Nov. 5. Placed outside the Main Street landmark in Marshall on Veterans Day 1927, the gift from the Daughters of the Confederacy marks the route of the Dixie Highway and features an image of Lee on a horse. While the marker sits on county property, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Marshall Police Department. Mike Boone, the department’s chief, said the plaque could have disappeared anytime from Nov. 2 — the night before Election Night — until the morning of Nov. 5, when the plaque’s disappearance was first reported to the Marshall Police Department. Boone said that an investigation into the plaque’s disappearance is underway, with review of security footage and interviews of potential witnesses ongoing.”

This is a photo of the plaque that is missing. Photo by Paul Moon, The News-Record & Sentinel. It was placed there on Veteran’s Day in 1927.

According to the article, “Marshall Mayor Jack Wallin said he learned about the plaque’s disappearance this morning, Nov. 5. ‘I’m extremely upset by that being removed and that people would stoop to do just a thing.’ Asked if he would work to replace the marker, Wallin said, ‘I’d advocate to find it and put it back and that the people who done it be prosecuted.’ “

From the article, a stone monument to Lee along US 25-70.

The article continues, “The Marshall plaque is not the only marker in Madison County to honor Lee. A larger monument stands in Hot Springs, along U.S. 25-70. Hot Springs Police Chief David Shelton said in a Nov. 5 call that the marker set into a rock stand has been targeted in the past. ‘The lettering has been chiseled. It’s been several years ago,’ Shelton said, adding that the damage was reported following 2014 protests against the police shooting of unarmed Black man Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. ‘It doesn’t represent nothing but the people who fought for and died for a cause. It’s a shame people can’t let history be history,’ Shelton said. Milton Ready, professor emeritus of history at UNC Asheville and author of ‘Mystical Madison: The History of a Mountain Region,’ wrote in a 2017 op-ed that the appearance of the Lee markers in Madison County is consistent with those that cropped up across the South between 1925-1935. The monuments appeared as ‘an almost perfect parallel to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. The use of Confederate and Nazi flags and symbols in the 1930s virtually collated with entrenched segregation in America,’ Ready wrote in the Nov. 22, 2017, edition of The News-Record & Sentinel. ‘While Germany easily toppled statues to Hitler and his era and moved on after World War II, America kept and defended theirs from its oppressive, slave past.  Intriguingly, only in America will you find so many statues erected to a lost cause, a rebellion that failed.  Most losing sides do not have such privileges.’ “

In this essay, Professor Barton A. Myers writes, “In late October, Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors voted to remove the statue of Thomas Jonathan ‘Stonewall’ Jackson from the post in Lexington. Jackson, a Confederate army general remembered by many people for his Civil War command decisions and military service, lived in the Shenandoah Valley town during the 1850s while serving as a faculty member at the institute. As a strong advocate of our National Historic Landmarks Program, I’m writing to suggest the placement of the statue at a location directly connected to its meaning and historical importance. While I recognize that the board might quickly suggest placement at New Market Battlefield and its Virginia Museum of the Civil War, I would like to suggest another possible location directly connected to the statue itself. I encourage VMI and the commonwealth of Virginia’s leadership to work with the National Park Service to find a suitable home for the statue at a historical site under its care and supervision. Furthermore, as a historian of the Civil War era, I can think of few places better suited to this than Chancellorsville Battlefield, part of the larger Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park (FRSPNMP). This park’s historians long have educated the American people in an inclusive manner about the Civil War era, and it currently has one of the finest staffs of historians of this era. Chancellorsville Battlefield also includes very few Civil War-era monuments as important as the one VMI currently is planning to remove.” Professor Myers may be onto something, but we will have to see how Congress determines the status of confederate monuments in national parks in the future.

In this article from Lee County, South Carolina, we find, “Lee County Schools is renaming four schools whose names honor Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The district announced Monday the changes for these schools: West Lee Elementary, Lower Lee Elementary, Lee Central Middle School, and Lee Central High School. The districts said the schools were all opened in the 1950s ‘during a period of intense resistance to desegregation in many southern states.’ Lee County itself is named in honor of the general who led Confederate forces during much of the Civil War. The county was created in 1902 by taking parts of Sumter, Darlington, and Kershaw Counties, according to the official county website. ‘We cannot change the county’s name, but we do feel a need to change the names of our schools to reflect the population that we serve,’ said Sanya Moses, the Chair of the Lee County Board of Trustees in a statement. ‘We have a school district population of 98%. As a board, we believe that it is time to rename the four schools to make them more inclusive of the population.’ The district said it formed a renaming committee which has met several times to consider what to call the schools. The committee and principals of the schools are talking to parents, students, staff and the community to get ideas. ‘I have spoken with some students from Lee Central High who feel that the school that they attend should not be named in honor of a confederate general,’ said Keel Addison, a member of the committee, in a statement released by the district. Moses said the committee is tasked with selecting a name with historical significance to the students and the community it represents. Each school principal will present the top three names to the Lee County School Board of Trustees who will make a final decision on the name.”

According to this article, the Alabama Attorney General says the removal of the confederate monument from Huntsville, Alabama was illegal. It was also illegal to help enslaved people escape to freedom before the Civil War, but it was also the right thing to do.

This article from Asheville, North Carolina, gives us the reactions of some African American residents to a task force decision to remove the monument to Zebulon Vance, North Carolina’s confederate wartime governor. “For some African Americans who grew up in Asheville, a task force’s decision to recommend the removal of Vance Monument from downtown is a watershed moment. ‘It’s about time,’ said John Hayes, the host of WRES radio and former NAACP local chapter president for 15 years. ‘Does Asheville want to be known as the place for honoring a klansman and a white supremacist?’ Hayes knows the history of racism and violence against African Americans in North Carolina dating back to the Civil War. Hayes said Governor Zebulon Vance not only had slaves but ties to a notoriously racist group. ‘He was part of the Red Shirts, who came up from South Carolina, and they were just another entity of the Ku Klux Klan,’ Hayes said. ‘As a child growing up in Asheville in Stumptown, off of Montford Avenue, everything at that time was totally segregated,’ Sophie Dixon recalled. Dixon, 83, served as vice-president for the NAACP along with Hayes for 15 years. She participated in the public input meeting to which the task force listened. ‘I thought that it should come down and be replaced by something that represents Asheville,’ Dixon said of Vance Monument. … ‘We’re not erasing history,’ Dixon said. ‘Our history is not our history. It’s whoever is telling the history, that’s the history that you get.’ “

In this article from Memphis, Tennessee, we learn where Nthan Bedford Forrest’s and his wife’s remains are headed. “The remains of Nathan Bedford Forrest and wife will soon be exhumed from under the pedestal of where his mounted statue once stood and reinterred in Columbia, Tennessee, according to court filings. Lawyers for Memphis Greenspace, the owners of Health Sciences Park, where Forrest is now buried, and lawyers for Forrest’s remaining descendants filed documents Friday expressing joint interest that the bodies of Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann Montgomery Forrest, be disinterred and transferred to the Sons of the Confederate Veterans. The remains would then be reinterred at the National Confederate Museum at Elm Springs, which is in Columbia, and owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, according to an affidavit from Bedford Forrest Myers, the great-great-grandson of Forrest and Mary Ann. The remains being removed from under the empty pedestal would represent Memphis’ final parting with one of its most infamous residents and leaders. Forrest, the Confederate cavalryman during the Civil War, early Ku Klux Klan leader, Memphis City Councilor and slave trader, died in Memphis in 1877. He was first buried in historic Elmwood Cemetery. In 1904, he and his wife were disinterred the first time and reburied under the statue during a Confederate veterans gathering in Memphis. ‘I have seen how in the past several years, Health Sciences Park has become a hot spot for passionate — and at certain times, heated — demonstrations and counterdemonstrations. More problematically, Health Sciences Park has also been vandalized… Relocating the graves is proper because the Property has lost its character as a burial ground,’ Myers wrote. This summer, during weeks of protests against police brutality and systemic racism, activists painted Black Lives Matter along the sidewalk that surrounds the empty pedestal, which has grave markers for Forrest and his wife. Neither the pedestal, nor the markers, were painted. Memphis Greenspace, the owner of the park, has allowed the painted words on the sidewalk to remain. Last year, the Sons of Confederate Veterans also received possession of the Forrest statue that the city of Memphis and Memphis Greenspace removed through a legal maneuver in December 2017. The monument will be re-erected at Elm Springs. ‘Furthermore, Memphis Greenspace and I have agreed to participate in joint efforts so that removal and reinterment of the remains will be done with due care and decency, and a suitable memorial will be erected at the place of reinterment,’ said Myers.” Personally, I think the right place for Forrest is back in Elmwood Cemetery, where many of his soldiers are interred.

 

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