The Week in Confederate Heritage

The big news comes out of Charlottesville, VA, where the neo-Nazis and racists who support confederate heritage staged a violent riot that resulted in the death of Heather Heyer and was linked with the deaths of two Virginia State Police officers,  Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates, whose helicopter crashed.

Photo: Mark Wilson (Getty Images) The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands in the center of the renamed Emancipation Park on August 22, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. A decision to remove the statue caused a violent protest by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and members of the ‘alt-right’.

This article tells us about the city’s removing the R. E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson statues. “Nearly a century after it was first erected, and almost four years after it prompted a deadly weekend of violence, the statue of Robert E. Lee sitting on horseback in downtown Charlottesville was hoisted into the air Saturday and carted away on a truck. The removal had been a long time coming. ‘I don’t have much to say other than this is well overdue,’ said Zyahna Bryant, who started a petition while in high school in 2016 to remove the statue. ‘This should have happened a long time ago.’ After the Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the statue in 2017, a group of residents sued, prompting a years-long court battle over its future. … The Lee statue had been the subject of anguish and tension in the community, vandalized with paint and graffiti and caught up in legal battles — even over whether it could be shrouded in black cloth after Heyer’s death. Conservative lawmakers hosted rallies there, and as a candidate for the presidency, Joe Biden discussed the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ rally as he kicked off his campaign. On Friday, the city of Charlottesville announced it would remove the statues of Lee and fellow Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. Officials said the statues will be placed in a ‘secure location’ on city property before the council votes on their future. Early Saturday morning, a green crane lifted a pair of workers onto the side of the Lee monument, where they tossed red pulls and chains in front of and behind the statue. They wrapped the ropes around the horse’s legs, preparing to hoist the figure upward. As they lifted the statue into the air just after 8 a.m., a small crowd of residents cheered from the side, watching Lee and his horse float away from the stone pedestal that had held them since 1924. Lena Jones, a 63-year-old health-care worker and lifelong Charlottesville resident, said she wanted to be part of a positive development in the city’s history — even if she was sorry it had taken so long. ‘We just don’t need things in Charlottesville to intimidate some people,’ she said, ‘because we all have to live together.’ A few feet away from her, Kevin Cox, 68, said he was excited to see Lee placed on a tractor and taken away. ‘It symbolized one thing when it was put up, and it came to symbolize a more intense concentrated version of the same racism.’ As the truck began rolling away from the park, people began celebrating even more loudly. ‘Roll out!’ one man yelled. ‘Don’t forget the base, too,’ another added.”

Workers remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Market Street Park on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

The article continues, “About two hours later and three blocks away, William Taylor raised his camera to snap pictures of the Jackson monument as workers chipped away at the base. ‘I want to keep this thought forever,’ the 54-year-old custodian said. As a crane grabbed the approximately 7,000-pound bronze figure, Taylor said he could feel a similar kind of weight being lifted off his shoulders. A friend of Heyer’s, Taylor said he had spoken to her the day before she was killed. So he knew he had to make the hour-long drive hour from Nelson County to watch the monuments come down. As the Jackson statue was strapped onto a flatbed with thick yellow bands, Taylor kept snapping photos. He said he would share them with his sons, Xavier, 18, and Rico, 2, to show how the city had righted the wrongs of August 2017. ‘I’m feeling a little relieved, but there’s a long way to go,’ he said. ‘This is just the beginning of what needs to change in our society.’ “

 A crew prepares to lift a statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson from its stone base in Charlottesville on Saturday. CNN Photo

This article tells us, “Bronze statues of two Confederate generals were removed on Saturday from public property in Charlottesville, Virginia, almost four years after they were a flashpoint for a violent ‘Unite the Right’ rally that left one person dead. Machinery first lifted the statue of Robert E. Lee in Market Street Park from its stone base shortly after 8 a.m. A statue of Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson was removed from Court Square Park nearly two hours later. A crowd that gathered to watch clapped and cheered both times. Both statues will be placed in storage. The stone bases will be left in place and removed later. ‘(Removing the statues) is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with its sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gains,’ Mayor Nikuyah Walker told reporters shortly before the Lee statue was lifted. ‘It is my hope that we stop taking these steps in 100-year increments and increase the frequency (of) bold daily action and critical examination of accurate history, even when it denounces whiteness as supreme,’ she said. The city said it is looking for a new home for the statues at a museum, military battlefield or historical society. The city has received 10 expressions of interest — six from out of state and four in Virginia, the news release said. … In October 2017, two months after the rally, a circuit court judge ruled against removing the statues from public spaces, saying that they were protected by a state statute that barred the removal of “memorials and monuments to past wars,” court documents show. But in April 2021, the Supreme Court of Virginia overturned that decision. Both monuments were erected in the 1920s but the state law protecting monuments was enacted in 1997, and ‘had no retroactive applicability and did not apply to statues erected by independent cities prior to 1997,’ the opinion reads.”

Workers remove the monument of Robert E. Lee on Saturday, in Charlottesville.
John C. Clark/AP

Professor Elizabeth Varon contributed this essay, in which she said, “On Saturday, Charlottesville will remove two equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson from the city’s public squares. That removal will not ‘erase history,’ as the statues’ defenders have repeatedly charged. It will instead allow us a clearer view of the complex Southern past. Erected in the 1920s, the Lee and Jackson statues have long served as a screen, designed to block out any narrative that might challenge white supremacy. Rendered in bronze atop imposing pedestals, the two Confederate generals embodied the Lost Cause memory tradition — a mix of myth and dogma claiming that the Confederacy was righteous and united; that postwar Reconstruction was a travesty; and that the racial caste system should persist. With the statues no longer looming over the landscape, casting so much of it in shadow, we can perceive Southern history and the history of Charlottesville more clearly. The region is rich with stories, previously obscured, of Southerners who fought against the Confederacy and rejected the Lost Cause mythology. Their stories reveal that the Lee and Jackson monuments represent a particular white supremacist and mythologized version of Southern heritage — and have never accurately reflected the complex history of the region.”

Professor Varon continues, “Consider the story of James T.S. Taylor, one of the 256 Black men from Albemarle County, Va., who fought in the Union Army. Taylor undertook a perilous journey from Charlottesville to the Union lines in Arlington, Va., to enlist. He then chronicled his wartime service with the 2nd Regiment of the United States Colored Troops in letters to the New York-based Black newspaper the Anglo-African. The men of the 2nd sought to extend ‘liberty and freedom to the oppressed of our native land,’ Taylor explained. Alluding to the Confederate practice of giving no quarter to Black troops, Taylor voiced the USCT men’s determination ‘never to be taken prisoner by the rebels and butchered in cold blood by them.’ ‘If it should be inquired about us in after times,’ he wrote, ‘it shall be said that we died upon the battlefield.’ With the Union’s victory in 1865, Taylor’s thoughts turned to his native Virginia. During Reconstruction, he returned to Albemarle County and was elected to Virginia’s state constitutional convention, where he made the case for racial equality. On April 17, 1868, he voted to approve a new Constitution, which provided for universal manhood suffrage, a statewide public school system and the democratization of local government. Calling the right to vote ‘the palladium of American liberty,’ and pointing out that ‘the disloyal men of Virginia are seeking, by every means in their power, to prevent the free exercise of the elective franchise,’ Taylor argued that Virginia ought to use paper ballots instead of voice voting to ensure free and fair elections.”

Professor Varon also writes, “The sacrifices that Black families made for the causes of freedom and Union are starkly visible in the pension application of Frances W. Evans, a free Black washerwoman in Charlottesville. Like Taylor, Evans was part of Albemarle County’s small but resilient community of free Blacks (roughly 4 percent of the African American population in the region) living in the midst of slavery. Evans sought pension payments because her son William died in combat during the war. As Evans related to the Pension Bureau, she had sent her son to live with his grandmother in Ohio before the war, and in 1863, young William, at age 16, joined the Union Army, enlisting in Company E of the 5th USCT in Chillicothe, Ohio. The decision to enlist carried William back to Virginia, where he was killed in action at the Battle of New Market Heights on Sept. 29, 1864 — a Union victory in which Black troops launched a crucial assault on Robert E. Lee’s Richmond fortifications. In 1867, Frances Evans traveled from Charlottesville to Washington, D.C., to file her pension request. For more than a decade she would submit and resubmit her application, only to have it denied because she did not have sufficient documentation proving that she had depended on her son financially before and during the war. Such documentation might have included letters in which a soldier sent his paycheck to his family. But as Evans explained, with palpable frustration, because she spent the war in Confederate territory, in Charlottesville, her son had no way of contacting her while he was in the army. The Pension Bureau conceded in its finding that Evans was caught in a sort of Catch-22: Her failure to prove dependence sprang from the fact that her son was so young when he enlisted. When he died in battle, he had not yet had the chance to support his mother.”

We also learn, “The courage and resilience of Black women in Central Virginia is further exemplified by community leader Isabella Gibbons. Gibbons was born into slavery in the 1830s and was owned by a professor at the University of Virginia. In defiance of laws criminalizing Black literacy, she learned to read and write and taught her children to do so; despite the denial of legally sanctioned marriages to the enslaved, she married William Gibbons, who too was held in bondage by a faculty member. After the war, as her husband became a prominent Baptist minister, Gibbons embarked on an inspirational career as an educator in Charlottesville’s Freedmen’s school and then in its segregated public schools. In her deeds and words, Gibbons refuted the core tenet of the Lost Cause — its defense of slavery. Gibbons’s searing remembrance of the Old South is inscribed onto U-Va.’s new Memorial to Enslaved Laborers: ‘Can we forget the crack of the whip, cowhide, whipping-post, the auction-block, the handcuffs, the spaniels, the iron collar, the negro-trader tearing the young child from its mother’s breast as a whelp from the lioness? Have we forgotten that by those horrible cruelties, hundreds of our race have been killed? No, we have not, nor ever will.’ “

Professor Varon concludes, “The claim that the Lee and Jackson statues stood for the ‘heritage’ of the Charlottesville region has always been a falsehood. Albemarle County had a Black majority on the eve of the Civil War. That majority not only welcomed Union victory, but was instrumental in bringing it about. With the statues gone, we can better understand the era in which Lee and Jackson, and the unsung Southerners who sought their defeat, lived. Isabella Gibbons’s eyes, engraved in granite on the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, ask us to look unflinchingly at Southern history, in its totality, and to see it anew.”

Workers remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson in Charlottesville on Saturday.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

This article tells us, “Charlottesville’s statues of Lee and Jackson were erected in the early 1920s with large ceremonies that included Confederate veteran reunions, parades and balls. At one event during the 1921 unveiling of the Jackson statue, children formed a living Confederate flag on the lawn of a school down the road from Vinegar Hill, a prominent Black neighborhood. The Jackson statue was placed on land that had once been another prosperous Black neighborhood. Their erection coincided with a push across the South to valorize the Confederacy and suppress Black communities, according to Sterling Howell, programs coordinator with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society. ‘This was at the height of Jim Crow segregation, at the height of lynchings in American history,’ he said. ‘There was a clear statement that they weren’t welcome.’

As this article tells us, someone had vandalized the Jackson statue earlier in the week. “The statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson in downtown Charlottesville was splattered with white paint sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning. In addition to the paint, some of the ‘City Personnel Only No Trespassing’ signs were covered with papers that say ‘Public Property.’ The Jackson statue, considered by art experts to be one of the top three equestrian statues in the world, and another of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee have been vandalized multiple times over the last few years. According to the city, Parks and Recreation staff will not be removing the paint on the Jackson statue until Tuesday. The Independence Day holiday officially is being observed Monday.”

According to this article, “Because of litigation and changes to a state law dealing with war memorials, the city had been unable to act until now. A coalition of racial justice activists who have long been fighting for the removal of the statues issued a statement Friday celebrating the news. ‘As long as they remain standing in our downtown public spaces, they signal that our community tolerated white supremacy and the Lost Cause these generals fought for,’ the coalition, Take ‘Em Down Cville, said in its statement. The city of Charlottesville issued a news release explaining that only the bronze statues themselves were removed Saturday, while the stone bases will temporarily remain in their respective places. The statues are being put in storage until a permanent decision is made on what to do with them. As of now, it looks like the city may take the Indiana Jones route and have the statues put in a museum.

During a special emergency meeting, the Charlottesville City Council unanimously voted to remove another a statue of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Shoshone interpreter Sacagawea.
City of Charlottesville

This article tells us the city removed a third statue. “Saturday marked a day of sweeping changes to the landscape of Charlottesville, Va., as local officials removed three statues seen by many as symbols of perpetuating racial inequality in America. Early Saturday morning, the city took down statues of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Then, during an emergency midday meeting of the city council, officials unanimously voted to remove another statue featuring Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and Shoshone interpreter Sacagawea, which was taken down Saturday afternoon. … The statue of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea was erected in 1919 and depicts Lewis and Clark viewing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Sacagawea is crouched behind the two of them. Dustina Abrhamson, a descendant of the Native American icon, told NPR in 2019 that the statue made her great-great-great aunt appear cowardly. ‘It depicts our ancestor as if she was a dog going along on the trip,’ Abrahamson said at the time. Earlier this week, city officials dedicated $1 million to remove the three statues. City Manager Chip Boyles said the special emergency meeting was called because the removals of the Lee and Jackson statues had gone smoothly — and that resources already in place made for an opportunity to act immediately on the third monument. Councilors said they hoped the relocation of the statue would allow for the proper ‘recontextualization’ of Native American peoples and that Indigenous people would be consulted in the process. While no specific decisions were finalized during the meeting — including possibly giving the statue to the Lewis & Clark Exploratory Center — officials agreed to remove the statue from its downtown location. Rose Ann Abrahamson, Dustina Abrahamson’s mother, spoke to the council by phone at the end of the emergency meeting. ‘I feel that it should just be melted down. That’s my opinion. I feel that it’s entirely offensive and it should be obliterated,’ Abrahamson said. ‘But if it can be utilized to give a message — to give a greater message — to educate the public, that would be an opportunity. So I’m very pleased with what is taking place, and it’s been a long road.’ “

We next go to Alabama for this article, which tells us, “The Confederacy lost another one. Wednesday afternoon, saying he simply couldn’t wait any longer on the city or county to act, former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, carrying a concrete saw, climbed in a bucket lift in the city’s town square and attempted to bring down a Confederate monument. He was successful in hacking through one ankle — leaving the statue on its last leg and potentially unsafe, possibly forcing its ultimate removal — before he was stopped by Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson. ‘Enough is enough,’ said Ford, a current Tuskegee city councilman. ‘The people of this city are tired of waiting on our elected officials to collectively act on this. Like them, I was tired of waiting.’ By late Wednesday, the statue was covered with a tarp and police tape surrounded an area around the statue. Whether the statue could safely remain in its place was still being determined, city leaders said. The statue of a Confederate soldier is possibly one of the most racist symbols still standing in America. It was erected in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy on land — in the middle of the town square — gifted to the UDC by the white-controlled county government, according to the Associated Press. That land was turned into a ‘whites only’ park at the timeThe dedication of the statue and park in 1906, occurring just a few months after Tuskegee University’s 25th anniversary celebration, was little more than a thumb in the eye to Black residents of the city. When the statue was officially commemorated in 1909, the city of Tuskegee was 82 percent Black, an AP story said. Today, 115 years later, UDC — a neo-confederate group that preaches the ‘lost cause’ of the South — still owns the land and the statue. Removing it has proven to be tricky. A large protest in 2020 resulted in city and county leaders stating that they planned to remove the statue. There were plans at the time to move it to a local cemetery. But those plans, and others, fell through, and there seemed to be no real efforts under way to rid the city of the statue. Until Ford came along with his saw on Wednesday.”

The article, in concluding, tells us, “Brunson has said Ford, and an unidentified accomplice, will likely face charges. There could be other charges as well. Alabama’s poorly-written monuments law, which charges cities up to $25,000 for destroying historical monuments, could possibly come into play. ‘I don’t really care what the state wants to do,’ Ford said. ‘This is Tuskegee.’ His ultimate goal, he said, was to saw off the soldier and leave the pedestal, upon which a new statue — possibly one of Tuskegee residents Booker T. Washington or Rosa Parks — could replace it. Ford also told the Advertiser that he planned to bury the Confederate statue on public lands when he finished sawing it down. ‘We cannot, in Tuskegee, Alabama, the birthplace of Rosa Parks, the home of the Tuskegee Airmen, the home of Tuskegee University, this historic city, have a Confederate statue in a park built for white people,’ Ford said.”

This essay from Professor Karen Cox delves into the Tuskegee monument. “Today’s Black-led movement to tear down Confederate idolatry also mirrors the case, 55 years ago, when, in 1966, young protestors in Tuskegee, Alabama, exacted their frustrations on the town’s Confederate monument when a white man was acquitted of murdering 21-year-old Sammy Younge, Jr. Late in the evening of January 3, 1966, Younge stopped to use the bathroom at a local filling station managed by 68-year-old Marvin Segrest. When Segrest pointed him to the ‘Negro’ bathroom, Younge, who was involved in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Tuskegee Institute (now University), countered by asking him if he’d heard of the Civil Rights Act that made such segregated facilities illegal. An argument ensued between the two men and Segrest pulled a gun and shot Younge in the back of the head, killing him. He admitted as much when arrested. According to James Forman, who then served as a field director for SNCC in Alabama, ‘the murder of Sammy Younge marked the end of tactical non-violence.’ In the days and months ahead, Tuskegee students and friends of Younge took to the street to express their fury over what had happened to someone so young. Nearly 3,000 people—including students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community—walked into town and called on the mayor to do more than ‘deplore the incident.’ A Confederate monument of a standalone soldier, dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) in 1906, dominated the center of town on land designated ‘a park for white people.’ Officially a memorial to Confederate soldiers from Macon County, it was like many cookie cutter soldier monuments that existed in town squares and on courthouse lawns around the state that made them unwelcoming spaces for Black citizens.”

Students from Tuskegee gathered in protest of the murder of Sammy Younge, Jr., and listened to lectures from school professors and other community leaders. (Photo by Jim Peppler; courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Professor Cox continues, “As part of the protest, Tuskegee history professor Frank Toland spoke to students while standing at the base of the monument. Forman called the statue ‘erected in memory of those who fought hard to preserve slavery.’ For a few weeks in January, students protested and vandalized stores in town even as they demonstrated on the land around the Confederate monument. Throughout the year, they also boycotted local businesses. On December 9, 1966, after a trial lasting just two days, Segrest was acquitted of the murder by an all-white jury in nearby Opelika, Alabama. Even though they had anticipated the outcome, the Tuskegee students were devastated. Student body president Gwen Patton reportedly screamed, ‘God damn!’ after the verdict was read and swiftly returned with her fellow students to Tuskegee to determine their next steps. Near 10:30 p.m. that evening, around 300 students gathered once again in the school’s gymnasium. They were angry and frustrated. ‘There was this whole fever of blackness,’ Patton told Forman, adding, ‘Negritude was coming across on students.’ They decided to march into town, headed to the park where the Confederate monument stood. Feelings about the acquittal were so strong that, by midnight, a group of 2,000 students, faculty and locals had gathered. What happened next foreshadowed the kinds of protests that have occurred across the South over the last few years. As they gathered around the statue, Tuskegee student Scott Smith saw that people were not of a mind to hold a vigil. They ‘wanted to do something about the problem . . . so the statue was it.’ Smith and classmate Wendy Paris called on someone in the community get them paint, and soon a local man arrived with two cans. They splashed the statue with black paint and smeared a yellow stripe down the back of the soldier atop the pedestal. They also, more pointedly, brushed ‘Black Power’ and ‘Sam Younge’ along the base.”

The defaced monument in downtown Tuskegee, Alabama, stood as a reminder of the student body’s anger at the murder of one of their own. (Photo by Jim Peppler; courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Professor Cox tells us, “According to Smith, ‘When the paint hit, a roar came up from those students. Every time the brush hit, wham, they’d roar again.’ The attack on the statue, that symbol of white supremacy in the middle of town, did not end there. They gathered dead leaves and created brush fires around it. One young woman’s pain spilled out and she shouted, ‘Let’s get all the statues—not just one. Let’s go all over the state and get all the statues.’ The cry to ‘get all the statues’ was a powerful statement and spoke volumes. While it was too dangerous for the students to take out their frustrations on white locals, attacking the monument served as a symbolic attack on racial inequality, as well as on the man who had killed their friend. Her plea revealed her knowledge that nearly every town in Alabama has erected similar statues, constant reminders of racial inequality, which she linked to Younge’s death. It was not something she would have learned in a course in Black history, although Tuskegee would soon add such courses to its curriculum following the protests. It was not something she had necessarily heard from SNCC. Like all Black southerners, her education about the meaning of Confederate monuments came from the lived experience of segregation and racial violence—as attested to by Sammy Younge Jr.’s murder.”

Students rally at the base of the Confederate monument in downtown Tuskegee, Alabama (Photo by Jim Peppler; courtesy Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Professor Cox concludes her essay, “The story of what happened in Tuskegee in 1966 serves as a testament to the racial division that Confederate monuments have long symbolized. Frustrations over racial injustice—and daily abuses wrought by individuals dedicated to white supremacy—led then, and leads now, to the vandalism of these statues. Laws that prevent their removal, so-called ‘heritage protection acts’ that currently exist in Alabama and states across the South, undermine racial progress and return attention to established power structures. Americans cannot look at Confederate monuments as static symbols that do nothing more than reflect some benign heritage. They have contemporary meaning with a racially harmful message. Those who protested Sammy Younge’s murder in 1966 knew that, as did those who protested these same statues in the summer of 2020.”

This essay talks about the removal of the white supremacist marker for the Colfax Race Riot. “On May 15, 2021, state officers, parish officials, and private citizens gathered in Colfax, Louisiana to watch local contractors remove an historical marker in front of Grant Parish Courthouse. Erected on June 14, 1951, the sign’s bold white letters announced that a civil disturbance claimed the lives of ‘three white men and 150 negroes.’ The sign’s second, and final sentence, assured readers that the deaths ended ‘carpetbag misrule’ and restored order to the South. The sign’s brevity belied the event’s importance. The lopsided slaughter of Black men and their families on Easter Sunday of April 13, 1873, emboldened a generation of white supremacists who viewed Black political power as a threat. The small marker’s removal represented years of effort from activists and students. In 1989, Black convict-journalists of The Angolite first challenged the ‘Riot” sign’s white supremacist roots. They first gave voice to the Black victims of what they titled the ‘Tragedy at Colfax.’ Local activists continued the fight for the sign’s removal. As Louisiana State University graduate students Jeff Crawford and I participated in the latest, and what would be, final attempt to have the marker removed. Our involvement with the marker in late 2016 came after reading LeeAnna Keith’s The Colfax Massacre (2008). In that book she described two signs: the 1951 Riot sign and a marble obelisk in the town’s cemetery dedicated in 1921 to three men who died ‘fighting for white supremacy’ in the 1873 massacre. We visited both. Each sign’s brazen omissions and admissions shocked us. On the drive back to Baton Rouge, we discussed how and why these signs remained standing and came to no good conclusions.”

The essay tells us, “Through her own research, LED Assistant Secretary Mandi Mitchell determined that in fact, by way of legacy as the successor to the original Department of Commerce and Industry, LED owned the sign and possessed the authority to remove it. In hindsight, our effort created a template of action for Ms. Mitchell. Our interactions with Grant Parish officials laid bare how the Jury would react and ascertained which members were interested in action. Maybe most importantly, our failed effort made the need for legal leverage clear. In the end, it was this legal technicality that enabled the removal of the Riot marker and ended this (asymmetrical) war of attrition between past and present. The Jury remained unphased by the historical evidence or the offers of inter-agency cooperation Ms. Mitchell offered at her presentation. With no other options left, aside from a costly legal battle, the Jury acquiesced to the marker’s removal. The battle for Colfax’s memory remains half won. Only the Jury’s single Black member appeared at the removal to show his support. The effort to properly memorialize the lives lost on Easter Sunday April 1873 is not over. Though the Riot marker will be housed in a state museum, no memorial stands that recognizes those murdered or explains why such a tragedy took place. There is still cause for optimism. At minimum, the marker’s quiet removal at the behest of a public official suggests that other monuments and markers can be removed without the fanfare that first accompanied the flurry of removals in the wake of  the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville and George Floyd’s murder. The removal also hints that a larger public will exists to reclaim a civic landscape marred by previous generations’ commitment to white supremacy.”

Finally, PBS aired a segment of its show, POV, which was a film by comedian C. J. Hunt called “The Neutral Ground,” which looks at the confederate monument issue. The film’s description reads, “The Neutral Ground documents New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause. In 2015, director CJ Hunt was filming the New Orleans City Council’s vote to remove four confederate monuments. But when that removal is halted by death threats, CJ sets out to understand why a losing army from 1865 still holds so much power in America. A co-production of POV and ITVS, in association with the Center for Asian American Media. A co-presentation of Black Public Media and the Center for Asian American Media. Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival.

You can access the film for a limited period of time here.

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