The Week in Confederate Heritage

There was some movement on the confederate heritage front this past week.

We begin with this article containing some potentially bad news for some prominent confederate monument lovers. “On August 12th, 2017, Marcus Martin and his then-fiancée Marissa Blair were in downtown Charlottesville with Blair’s friend and co-worker Heather Heyer. They had spent the day at the edge of the skirmishes erupting around the Unite the Right rally before finding themselves in the middle of a throng of jubilant counterprotesters. That was the moment James Alex Fields plowed his Dodge Charger into the crowd at full speed, killing 32-year-old Heyer. Martin was able to push Blair out of the car’s path before he was struck and launched into the air, breaking a leg and an ankle. Natalie Romero, a University of Virginia undergrad, had her skull fractured in the car attack. Rev. Seth Wispelwey was shoved and screamed at and spit on by white supremacists while he stood, arms linked with other clergy, in a counterprotest earlier that day. Devin Willis and Elizabeth Sinnes, students at UVA, were confronted on campus by tiki-torch-wielding racists chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ the night prior. Martin, Blair, Romero, Wispelwey, Willis, and Sines are among the nine plaintiffs suing some of the most notorious white nationalist leaders in the country in a long-delayed civil trial set to begin October 25th. ‘These were all people who were very grievously injured — physically and, of course, emotionally,’ says Amy Spitalnick, executive director of Integrity First for America (IFA), the civil rights nonprofit behind the lawsuit. ‘Many of us remember the sounds and the images [from Charlottesville]. I’m not sure as many people remember that there were actual human beings surrounded and trapped and beaten by these Nazis.’ The list of defendants, 24 in total, includes Fields (currently serving a life sentence, plus an additional 419 years, after pleading guilty to killing Heyer and injuring 28 others), as well as Jason Kessler, who secured the permit for Unite the Right rally; Richard Spencer, credited with coining the term ‘Alt-Right’; Christopher ‘Crying Nazi‘ Cantwell; Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin; and Matthew Heimbach and his father-in-law, Matthew Parrot, co-founders of the Traditionalist Worker Party. A smattering of other ADL- and SPLC-designated hate groups will also go on trial — including Vanguard AmericaIdentity EvropaLeague of the Souththe National Socialist Movement, the Nationalist Front, and two chapters of the KKK. IFA calls the suit ‘the only current legal effort to take on the vast leadership of the violent white nationalist movement.’ Lawyers for the victims will utilize a Reconstruction-era law known as the Ku Klux Klan Act — as well as more than 5.3 terabytes of digital evidence — to try and prove that white nationalists conspired to cause racially-motivated violence that day in Charlottesville. If they succeed, the individuals and organizations will be forced to pay the victims for the damage they inflicted. No particular figure is named in the court documents, but it is IFA’s explicit goal that the costs will bankrupt the defendants. That’s not a far-fetched outcome: Identity Evropa founder Nathan Damigo is already in bankruptcy proceedings — a fact he cited in an attempt to avoid liability in this trial; Kessler has complained that the enormous cost of lawsuits stemming from the rally have forced him to move back in with his parents; Spencer, whose organization was just ordered to pay $2.4 million to a different victim injured in Charlottesville, has said he can’t afford a lawyer for this case. The architect of the lawsuit is Roberta Kaplan, a 25-year veteran of the white-shoe law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison where she famously argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of her client Edie Windsor to win federal recognition of same-sex marriages in the United States. Since leaving the firm four years ago, Kaplan has gone on to defend Amber Heard against a defamation claim from Johnny Depp, and represent E. Jean Carroll in her lawsuit against Donald Trump.”

The goal of that lawsuit is to hold the white supremacist confederate monument lovers accountable and to bankrupt them.

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee was removed from a Texas park and relocated to a private golf resort. 
Steve Helber/AP

This article about a statue of R. E. Lee removed in Texas tells us, “A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee that the city of Dallas removed from a park and later sold in an online auction is now on display at a golf resort in West Texas. The bronze sculpture, which was removed from the Dallas park in September 2017, is now at the Lajitas Golf Resort in Terlingua, Texas, the Houston Chronicle reported. The 27,000-acre resort, which is privately owned by Dallas billionaire and pipeline mogul Kelcy Warren and managed by Scott Beasley, the president of Dallas-based WSB Resorts and Clubs, received the statue as a donation in 2019. The 1935 sculpture by Alexander Phimister Proctor was among several Lee monuments around the U.S. that were removed from public view amid the fallout over racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. The artwork, which depicts Lee and another soldier on horses, was kept in storage at Dallas’ Hensley Field, the former Naval Air Station, until it was sold in 2019. Holmes Firm PC made the top offer for the sculpture, according to documents from the Dallas City Council. Terlingua, which is in Brewster County near Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande, has less than 100 residents and no record of Black residents, according to recent census data. Black people make up just 1.7% of the population of Brewster County, according to census data. Beasley told the Chronicle the statue serves no intent but to preserve ‘a fabulous piece of art.’ ‘I would say that of the 60-plus-thousand guests we host each year, we’ve had one or two negative comments’ he said. But Black Lives Matter Houston activist Brandon Mack said he takes issue with supporters of Lee who argue that the statue is merely ‘an appreciation for art’ and wonders whether the same defense would be used for other offensive symbols from throughout history, or if that’s reserved for iconography solely glorifying the oppression of Blacks. ‘We don’t glorify the swastika; we don’t have monuments (of) Adolf Hitler,’ he said.”

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E Lee located in Charlottesville, Virginia, is transported away after being removed from Market Street Park in July.

Speaking of Lee statues, this article discusses a proposal regarding the Lee statue Charlottesville, VA removed. “A Black heritage center in Charlottesville, Virginia, wants to melt down the city’s recently removed statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee so that it can be repurposed into public art. The Jefferson School African American Heritage Center (JSAAHC) submitted a proposal to the city on Friday to take ownership of the statue, which was the focal point of a deadly white supremacist rally in 2017. The city removed the statue from a public park earlier this year. The JSAAHC wishes to disassemble the statue of Lee — who during the Civil War led the Confederate Army’s losing campaign to preserve the institution of slavery — so that it can be taken to a foundry, melted down, and then given to an artist-in-residence, according to a statement released Monday. The artist, after receiving input from the descendants of enslaved persons, would then turn the statue’s bronze material into a new piece of art that would be offered to the city of Charlottesville for public display. The proposal is ‘Charlottesville’s opportunity to lead by creating a road map that can be followed by other communities that wish to impact history,’ JSAAHC Executive Director Dr. Andrea Douglas said in a statement. ‘It’s our hope that our entire community will embrace this defining moment.’ JSAAHC is among at least 32 groups or individuals interested in taking ownership of the Lee statue, or a statue of Confederate Gen. Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. The city removed both earlier this year amid an ongoing national reckoning over the more than 2,000 memorials valorizing the Confederacy, most erected decades after the Civil War as part of a campaign to terrorize Black Americans.”

The article also says, “Charlottesville’s Lee statue was erected in 1924 in a park that was then whites-only. Its arrival in the city coincided with a festival honoring the Confederacy, which local chapters of the Ku Klux Klan celebrated by holding a cross burning and marching by the thousands through downtown. The Charlottesville City Council voted to remove the Lee statue in early 2017 but a local judge issued an injunction preventing its removal. White supremacists, buoyed by the rise of former President Donald Trump and angered over the city’s attempt to topple the statue, held a series of rallies in Charlottesville that summer, culminating with the deadly ‘Unite the Right’ rally in August during which a neo-Nazi driving his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. (A lawsuit against the organizers of the rally goes to trial next week.) This April, the Virginia Supreme Court, citing a new state law, ruled that Charlottesville could remove its Confederate statues. In July, the city removed Lee from his pedestal and lowered him onto the back of a truck, which then drove out of Market Street Park (formerly Emancipation Park and Lee Park before that). The city council will now sort through the proposals of what to do with the statue. The council’s guidelines for the selection process all but ensure that no neo-Confederate groups will take hold of the monument. ‘The recontextualization needs to be done clearly and unambiguously indicating the rejection of the Jim Crow-era narratives that dominated when the statues were erected,’ the guidelines state. ‘New design that deemphasizes the centrality of the sculpture and counters the Lost Cause narratives could achieve transformation of both space and narrative.’ According to a report in Charlottesville Tomorrow, at least one neo-Confederate group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the city it is interested in the statue. Other individual Confederate sympathizers have also thrown their hats in the ring. ‘The Confederate statues being removed from sight should come to Texas where we will give them a place of honor to be viewed by all patriots who wish to keep our heritage strong,’ a man named Ed Atkinson wrote in a letter to the city earlier this year. ‘Your leaders, your city has no honor and does not deserve a place of heritage in history.’ Other applicants include historical organizations and museums across the country, including the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Michigan. The JSAAHC — a Charlottesville-based nonprofit organization founded in 2013 that offers interdisciplinary programming designed to promote “a greater appreciation for and understanding of, the contributions of African Americans and peoples of the Diaspora,” according to its website — says it has already raised $500,000 in funding commitments toward its proposal.”

A statue honoring Thomas Jefferson has stood inside the council chamber in New York City Hall for more than 100 years. It’s now headed for another location — but exactly where remains in doubt.
New York Public Design Commission

While not a confederate monument, this article deals with removing a Thomas Jefferson statue and why it’s being removed. “A Thomas Jefferson statue is on its way out of New York’s City Council Chamber, after members of the Public Design Commission agreed to take the nation’s third president and well-known slaveowner off of his pedestal. The statue currently occupies a prominent spot near the chamber’s main dais, where Jefferson has towered over council members for more than 100 years. Jefferson’s statue should not be in ‘a position of honor and recognition and tribute’ in the chamber, council member Inez Barron said during a public meeting on Monday about the statue’s future, adding that Jefferson ‘felt that Blacks were inferior to whites — in his own words.’ A final spot for the statue is yet to be determined. It was first placed in City Hall around 1834 and was displayed in several locations there before moving to the main chamber in 1915. The statue was commissioned because of Jefferson’s support for religious freedom in the U.S. military; it was paid for by Navy officer Uriah Phillips Levy, a New Yorker who was one of the first Jewish officers in the service. It’s a plaster version of the bronze statue that stands in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., which Levy also gifted to the U.S. government. The statue features Jefferson holding a quill pen and the Declaration of Independence. But Barron and other speakers cited Jefferson’s embrace of slavery as a reason to kick his statue out of the chamber where lawmakers govern one of the country’s most diverse cities. Barron also noted the atrocities and extortion of slavery, as well as Jefferson’s initiative to push Native Americans off their ancestral lands. ‘We’re not being revisionist. We’re not waging a war on history,’ Barron said. ‘We’re saying that we want to make sure that the total story is told, that there are no half-truths and that we are not perpetrating lies.’ The issued touched off a prolonged debate, as members discussed whether a work of public art should be hidden away from view, or if removing the statue might also remove context around one of the country’s founding fathers.”

The article continues, “The commission’s initial proposal called for loaning the statue to the New York Historical Society, which planned to display it along with historic information to put his life in context. But opponents of that idea noted that the society is a private entity, without direct public accountability and access. During debate, two main competing options emerged: to move Jefferson’s statue to a less prominent spot in City Hall, or to send it to the historical society. ‘It could easily be moved to the Governor’s Room [in City Hall], which is filled with people associated with slavery,’ said public art advocate Todd Fine, who is president of the Washington Street Advocacy Group. Fine said he was ‘bewildered’ that the commission didn’t originally include the option as an alternative. Council member Adrienne Adams disagreed with that idea, saying that moving the statue within City Hall would amount to an attempt to ‘placate’ people who want it removed. But she also acknowledged that there wasn’t a consensus on Jefferson’s final destination. ‘The bottom line is that there is no educational purpose for the statue to be in City Hall chambers,’ Adams said. In the end, a final decision on the statue’s fate was deemed to be out of reach, at least for now. The commission voted to approve removing the statue, pledging to decide by the end of 2021 to find ‘a location where it remains in the public realm.’ The push to remove the statue began at least 20 years ago, in an effort that was led by Inez Barron’s husband, state Assembly Member Charles Barron. Despite the long-running effort to take the statue down, Jefferson’s likeness was placed in an even more prominent spot around 2011, when its pedestal was raised higher to protect the recently reconditioned artwork.”

This article from Alexandria, Virginia, tells us, “As part of an ongoing effort to commemorate civil rights efforts both past and ongoing, the city hosting a film screening and virtual discussion about Confederate statues around Virginia and their recent removal. The discussion will center around How the Monuments Came Down, a documentary produced by Field Studio and the VPM Media Corporation. The documentary focuses primarily on Richmond, with a look at the history of the statues and the culture around that. A virtual discussion tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. will be hosted by historian Lauranett Lee and Eugene Thompson, a former member of Alexandria’s Ad Hoc Advisory Committee on Confederate Memorials and Street Names. The committee, which met through 2015-2016, was part of a tempestuous fight over whether to rename some city streets or remove certain memorials. The committee eventually advised the renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway — now Richmond Highway — and to consider individual requests to rename streets that could be named for Confederate leaders. Discussions are still ongoing about renaming some streets, with the Alexandria Times reporting some local back-and-forth over Lee Street in Old Town. While the committee voted to recommend that the Appomatox statue remain in place with context added to the site, the statue was ultimately removed last summer by the Daughters of the Confederacy after the city was granted authorization by the state to take it down.”

John B. Castleman statue in Louisville, Kentucky Melissa Lyttle

This article takes a look at what happened to confederate monuments after their removal. “These structures have been powerful symbols of racism, our nation’s original sin. But now time is catching up with them and they have started coming down—sometimes by popular choice, sometimes by force. While more than 700 Confederate monuments are still on display in the US, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2020 Whose Heritage? report, which tracks public symbols of the Confederacy across the United States, found that 94 Confederate monuments were removed from public spaces last year. This was more than had been taken down in the preceding four years combined, according to the group. Fueled by episodes of police violence and institutional racism, many Americans are finally seeing these monuments for the first time not as benign relics but as part of a campaign to dehumanize Black citizens. Cities, counties, churches, and universities are awakening to the bitter significance of these symbols and covering them up, tearing them down, or dismantling them entirely. Where elected officials have been slow to act, ordinary people have taken matters into their own hands.”

The article also says, “Some cities in Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas have relocated their monuments to Confederate graveyards or local museums. Other cities in Georgia and Florida have moved them out of the public eye and onto private property. And many more have hidden their monuments away in shipping containers, warehouses, storage sheds, public works facilities, city impound lots, a prison maintenance yard, and other ‘secure undisclosed locations.’ At Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Maryland, community relations and preservation manager Chris Haugh decided not to wipe away the markings protesters had left on a statue of a Confederate soldier that was toppled, beheaded, and tagged with red spray paint. It marked the burial ground of 408 unknown Confederate soldiers who died on July 9, 1864, at the nearby Battle of Monocacy. The monument is history, he said, but so is the paint and other damage. ‘That’s history, too.’ ” The article then looks at a number of monuments, giving a picture of the monument before removal, a picture of the site after removal and usually a photo of the monument where it is today, along with a description of what’s happened to that monument.

Sculptor Joe F. Howard puts the final touches on the U.S. Colored Troops statue to be installed in front of the historic Williamson County Courthouse on Franklin’s public square on Oct. 23.

This article about a USCT monument in Franklin, Tennessee, tells us, “The bronze U.S. Colored Troops soldier statue that will be installed in front of the historic Williamson County Courthouse in downtown Franklin will be unveiled and dedicated during a special event to close a three-day ceremony by The Fuller Story initiative, Three Landmark Days with The Fuller Story. The ceremony for the statue, which is entitled ‘March to Freedom’ and sculpted by Tennessee native Joe F. Howard, will take place in front of the historic courthouse on the square in downtown Franklin on Saturday morning, Oct. 23, at 10:30 a.m. … The USCT soldier statue unveiling and dedication on Saturday will include remarks by Franklin Mayor Ken Moore, City Administrator Eric Stuckey, Alderman Dana McLendon and Howard. Special music will be rendered by the African American ensemble Kettle Praise. ‘This glorious statue will stand in front of the historic courthouse in Franklin where hundreds of escaped slaves in Williamson County and surrounding areas fled in order to enlist in the Union Army,’ Williamson said. ‘This statue represents the 186,000 United States Colored Troops soldiers who courageously fought for this country’s freedom and their own freedom. These Black men are worthy to be honored and celebrated.’ … In 2019, five historic markers were installed around the city square, telling the stories of enslaved Africans and African Americans before, during and after the Civil War. The final aspect of the plan involves installing a statue of a USCT soldier in a place of prominence and equal nobility on the city’s square.”

This article on the same subject tells us, “For decades, when Hewitt Sawyers drove past the monument of the Confederate soldier standing tall in his city’s public square, he felt the weight of slavery’s long shadow. Mr. Sawyers, 73, had attended a segregated school in Franklin, about 20 miles south of Nashville. He read from torn books passed down from the local white high school. The courthouse offered a ‘colored’ water fountain, and the movie theater did not welcome him on the lower floor. As Confederate monuments across the South began to come down after a 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., he wanted the 37-foot local statue, known as ‘Chip,’ gone, too. ‘Chip represented a large part of the reason I was not part of the downtown arena,’ Mr. Sawyers, a Baptist minister, said. ‘Every time I went around that square, it was a reminder of what had gone on.’ Mr. Sawyers and like-minded residents did not get the statue removed, but they have come up with a provocative response to it: a new bronze statue in Franklin’s public square depicting a life-size soldier from the U.S. Colored Troops, largely Black regiments that were recruited for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. The new monument, which was unveiled Saturday before a crowd of hundreds, and five recently added markers tell the story of the market house where enslaved people were auctioned and the role that local Black men played in fighting for their freedom. Dubbed the Fuller Story, the four-year project led by Mr. Sawyers and three other local residents expanded the narrative of why and how the war was fought. ‘Here is a Black man who was enslaved, who gave his life to go out to help free other people,’ Mr. Sawyers said. ‘To be standing here, now, in the face of a statue that represents enslaving those people and to know that, because he was willing to do that, we won — what a powerful message.’ “

The article also tells us, “That the Fuller Story project gained unanimous approval from city officials marks a significant evolution in how the community memorializes the Civil War. ‘It was long overdue to tell people not just the U.S. Colored Troops story but this very impactful story of the Black experience during the war,’ said Eric Jacobson, a local historian who worked on the project. ‘A lot of people just didn’t know about it.’ Dana McLendon, a city alderman for 24 years, called it ‘probably the single most important thing we’ve ever done.’ The effort began in 2017, in response to the racist violence in Charlottesville, when a white pastor, Kevin Riggs, said at a public gathering that it was time for the local Confederate monument to come down, a proposal that was met with death threats and angry voice mail messages. Supporters also became cognizant of the legal hurdles they would face. The Confederate monument had been there since 1899. It was installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, with the figure’s hat chipped in the process, creating its enduring nickname. A 2013 state law had imposed new restrictions on removing memorials. Mr. Jacobson had an alternative idea: Rather than focusing on removing the Confederate statue, he said, Franklin should share stories of local African Americans relevant to the Civil War. The group eventually raised $150,000 in private donations to make it happen. The five markers placed in front of the courthouse and by the square’s center were erected in 2019. The large placards describe the experiences of African Americans before, after and during the war and include photographs and illustrations from that era. One includes advertisements for auctioning enslaved people for cash or credit. ‘You can hear all these romanticized, ‘Gone With the Wind’ stories of slavery, but here is the reality: Where you are standing, men, women, boys and girls were bought like cattle,’ Mr. Riggs said. ‘This happened.’ “

The article continues, “Joe Frank Howard, a sculptor from Columbus, Ohio, created the U.S. Colored Troops statue, named ‘March to Freedom.’ The soldier stands with his foot planted on a tree stump and holds a rifle across his knee. Broken shackles lay under him. The title refers to the marching of the soldiers before battle but also encompasses the marches that took place throughout the fight for civil rights, said Mr. Howard, 73. ‘The first step toward true freedom for people of color in America was that war,’ he said. About 180,000 Black soldiers fought for the United States during the Civil War. Still segregated from white troops as they fought, they often faced brutal consequences if they were captured by Confederates. ‘I’ve seen a whole lot of Confederate statues in my day,’ said Chris Williamson, a pastor in Franklin who also led the effort. ‘But I have never seen a statue of a United States Colored Troops soldier in person.’ He added, ‘Image matters. Representation matters.’ There are several other monuments and a few statues across the country commemorating Black Civil War soldiers, including memorials in Boston; Lexington Park, Md.; Vicksburg, Miss.; and Washington D.C. Another is set to be unveiled in Wilmington, N.C., in November. Lecia Brooks, chief of staff for the Southern Poverty Law Center, commended the Fuller Story, especially in light of Tennessee’s restrictive preservation laws, but said the two statues should not be conflated as offering a balanced view of the war, given the Confederacy’s aim to prolong chattel slavery. ‘They are not the same,’ Ms. Brooks said. Franklin’s elected leaders, united on the Fuller Story’s approval, remain divided on whether the Confederate statue should be removed. ‘Part of what makes Franklin Franklin is our history,’ said Alderman Margaret Martin. ‘He was right where he needed to be.’ “

According to the article, “Mr. McLendon is among those who would like to see it moved to the Carnton cemetery. ‘If you go read the words inscribed on the statue, if it doesn’t make you more than a little uncomfortable in 2021, then I guess, maybe go try again,’ he said. (‘No country ever had true sons, no cause nobler champions,’ the inscription reads. ‘The glories they won shall not wane from us.’) Any effort to relocate the statue is further complicated by a new agreement between the city and the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which objected to the Fuller Story project’s location and claimed ownership of the land. The city filed a lawsuit, seeking a judgment on ownership, and in a settlement, deeded the group the land directly under the Confederate monument. Should anyone seek its relocation, ‘we’ll fight that tooth and nail,’ Doug Jones, an attorney representing the United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter, said. Mr. Williamson said he has received pushback from some Black residents disappointed that the Fuller Story did not go far enough in changing the face of Franklin’s downtown. If others want to push for the Confederate statue’s removal, that is their prerogative, he said, but with ‘March to Freedom’ now in the public square, he has moved on. ‘I’m excited about the stories we are telling that haven’t been told,’ he said. ‘I ain’t got time for Chip.’ “

My friend and blogging colleague Pat Young is all over this and has a link to video of this new monument’s unveiling here.

The entrance to the Confederate Memorial Park in Marbury, Ala., on Sept. 24. The museum’s director, Calvin Chappelle, said that its purpose is to tell the stories of Confederate soldiers. (Cameron Carnes for The Washington Post)

With this article we learn, “Down a country road, past a collection of ramshackle mobile homes, sits a 102-acre ‘shrine to the honor of Alabama’s citizens of the Confederacy.’ The state’s Confederate Memorial Park is a sprawling complex, home to a small museum and two well-manicured cemeteries with neat rows of headstones — that look a lot like those in Arlington National Cemetery — for hundreds of Confederate veterans. The museum, which director Calvin Chappelle said has about 30,000 visitors a year, seeks to tell an ‘impartial’ history of the Civil War. The museum’s exhibits explain what the White Alabamians who took up the cause of the Confederacy felt was on the line — Alabama was 10th of the then 33 states in the value of livestock, seventh in peas and beans, and second in cotton production. The only hope to save its economic position, the exhibit quotes a former state governor as saying, was for it to secede from the union, and though not mentioned directly, maintain the bondage of hundreds of thousands of Black Americans. … There are scattered mentions of slavery throughout the displays, but for the most part the museum focuses on the story of Confederate soldiers on the battlefield, mostly highlighting the bravery they displayed and the principles they were fighting for. The exhibit quotes Confederates like E.S. Dargan, who said: ‘If the relation of master and slave be dissolved, and our slaves turned loose amongst us without restraint, they would either be destroyed by our own hands — the hands to which they look with confidence, for protection — or we ourselves would become demoralized and degraded.’ Chappelle explained that the purpose of the museum was to tell the stories of Confederate soldiers; visitors who want a fuller picture of Alabama’s racial history — slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement — would have to go elsewhere. There are a number of museums that tell those stories spread across Alabama, but the Confederate Memorial Park is different. It is the only museum in the state that has a dedicated revenue stream codified in the state’s constitution. So while other museums struggle to keep their doors open, search for grants for funding and depend on volunteer staff, the Confederate Memorial Park is flush with cash. In 2020 alone, the park received $670,000 in taxpayer dollars. That’s about $22 per visitor and more than five times the $4 admission price for adults.”

The article also tells us, “Earlier this year, a pair of state senators, a Black Democrat and a White Republican, co-sponsored a bill that would have maintained funding for the Confederate Park, while providing the same amount to Black historical sites. The bill failed, but Sen. Clyde Chambliss Jr., its Republican sponsor, told the Montgomery Advertiser that he planned to reintroduce the legislation during a planned special session. The special session started Sept. 27, but there have been no signs that Chambliss will follow up on his pledge. Neither Chambliss nor his Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Bobby D. Singleton, responded to requests for comment. Chambliss had expressed confidence that the bill would win easy passage, but similar measures have failed in the past and there was vocal opposition to the effort from people like Patricia Godwin, a longtime member of the Selma chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. ‘I would never support that,’ Godwin told the Alabama News Network. ‘Unless I see some balance and we see in April, Confederate history and heritage month in the school system and that that would be a part of the official Alabama state curriculum.’ The Washington Post reached out to Godwin for an interview and got her answering machine, which had the message: ‘The war of Southern cultural genocide rages on, and we’re still on the battlefield so I’m sorry, we can’t take your call right now.’ The message ends: ‘In spite of it all, we do hope that you’re having a Dixie day.’ She did not respond to a message seeking comment.” The racism of the UDC does not seem to have abated based on this quote.

The article continues, “The fight over how to fund Alabama’s museums comes as state lawmakers debate what and whose history should be taught and promoted. In August, the Alabama State Board of Education passed a resolution that banned the teaching of critical race theory, an academic framework that examines the role of race and racism in the crafting of American laws and social norms. The phrase has become a catchall term that conservatives have used to criticize a number of efforts they say constitute an attack on White Americans and culture. Alabama lawmakers have also introduced bills for the 2022 legislative session that seek to ban the teaching of ‘divisive concepts’ that might make students uncomfortable because of their race or gender. Some have argued that teaching about slavery, racism and bigotry make White students — particularly males — feel bad or ashamed. In Alabama, museums are part of the fight over which telling of the state’s history will prevail. … The Alabama Historical Commission is the state’s main historical preservation office and has an annual budget of $12 million, funded mostly with state and federal dollars. Spokeswoman Wendi Lewis said the commission received grant applications totaling $4 million last year, but had funding to fulfill only $1.3 million of those requests, including money for ‘a significant number of African American projects.’ ‘Our approach with our historic sites is to concentrate on ALL Alabamians’ history, and that has not changed,’ Lewis wrote in an email. ‘We have sites that deal with African American history, Native American history, and we tell all those stories.’ Dorothy Walker, a longtime employee of the Alabama Historical Commission and director of the Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery, stands by the work that the commission has done over the years. Just before Walker joined the commission, it stepped in to stop the demolition of the old Montgomery Greyhound bus terminal that now serves as the site of the Freedom Rides Museum. The museum tells the story of the groups of volunteers, the Freedom Riders, who rode buses throughout the South in 1961 to challenge segregation on public transportation. Riders were attacked throughout their journey from D.C. to New Orleans, but the most vicious attacks occurred outside of the Montgomery bus station where state officials stood by and let the mob have at the riders. The images out of Montgomery helped force President John F. Kennedy’s administration to step up its efforts to force the integration of interstate transportation in the South. In the 1990s, the federal courthouse located next to the bus station wanted to tear down the building to expand its operations. The Alabama Historical Commission stood up to save it, Walker said. ‘The state could have let this building come down. They didn’t have to step in,’ Walker said. ‘And the state is still putting resources in and paying us to stand there and tell people every day what the state of Alabama did not do to protect its people.’ … Louretta Wimberly, chair emeritus of the Alabama Historical Commission’s Black Heritage Council Board, understands why many are unhappy with the Confederate Memorial’s outsized financial endowment, but she said the problem lies with the legislature, not the historical commission.”

According to the article, “The source of the memorial’s funding can be traced back to the state’s Jim Crow-era constitution. Carol Gundlach, a policy analyst at Alabama Arise, a statewide advocacy organization, said that lawmakers in 1901 were looking for a way to introduce new taxes in the conservative state and needed a sympathetic group to attach the tax increase to. Gundlach said they decided on Confederate veterans and their wives. Funds for Confederate veterans became part of a statewide 6.5 mill property tax — 3 mills for public schools, 2.5 mills for the state’s general operating budget and 1 mill for the veterans. That 1 mill provided for pensions for veterans and the construction of a home for indigent veterans in rural Chilton County. (A mill is a tenth of a cent.) The home closed in 1934 after the last veteran died, but state lawmakers reopened the property as Confederate Memorial Park in 1964, during the height of the civil rights movement and around the 100th anniversary of the Civil War. The park now receives 1 percent of that original tax. ‘This tax is really locked in because it is in the state constitution,’ Gundlach said. ‘It’s a part of a bigger problem we have with our post-Reconstruction constitution passed by wealthy Whites when they took back the state government. It was about locking in their power and locking in the authority of the legislature. It contains quite a few of these segregationist and racist policies that we are just now beginning to get rid of.’ “

In 1869, Joseph R. Holmes was murdered on the steps of the Charlotte County Courthouse in what is now Charlotte Court House, Va. The new marker about Holmes is in the center, still covered in plastic. Behind the sign is a monument to Confederate soldiers and a cannon installed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. (Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston)

With this article we learn, “The Charlotte County, Va., courthouse has a long history, with plenty of historical markers to show for it. There’s one for Patrick Henry‘s last public debate, which took place there in 1799. There’s a statue honoring Confederate soldiers, and a replica of a 19th century cannon to commemorate veterans. There are two big bronze plaques in front of oak trees planted to memorialize the 1902 Virginia Constitutional Convention. The small town surrounding the courthouse is itself a kind of historical marker, renamed Charlotte Court House to highlight the 198-year-old brick building, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. But look around for a sign marking the 1869 murder that took place on the courthouse steps — a murder that made international news — and, until recently, you would have come up empty. That will change Saturday, with the unveiling of a new historical marker honoring Joseph R. Holmes, the first Black man to win an election in Charlotte County, who was born enslaved and shot down in broad daylight. The unveiling ceremony will include a choir singing spirituals and remarks by his descendants. ‘[The ceremony] is recognition of his accomplishments,’ said Kathy Lee Erlandson Liston, a local resident and retired archaeologist who has spent years delving into Holmes’s story after a request from one of those descendants. ‘It is justice for him — revealing the names of his killers — and it’s a homegoing for a man who never received the proper funeral and what he should have received.’ “

It continues, “Holmes was born enslaved around 1838. Liston’s research indicates he was likely enslaved by the Marshalls, a wealthy White family — possibly by Judge Hunter Holmes Marshall, who owned the Roxabel plantation, or his cousin, John H. Marshall. It is unknown how exactly Holmes gained his freedom, but by the late 1860s, records show he was working as a shoemaker and had married and started a family. He could read and write and even bought 11.5 acres of his own land, not far from where he used to toil unpaid. He also became active in the Republican Party. He served as a delegate at party conventions, wrote op-eds pushing White Republicans toward more radical reforms guaranteeing Black civil rights and was elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868. Formerly Confederate states were required to pass new state constitutions guaranteeing civil rights before they were allowed to be readmitted to the Union, and Holmes helped write Virginia’s. He reliably voted for the most radical reforms, and as a member of the Committee on Taxation and Finance, he probed and tried to stop corruption, earning him vocal enemies in White newspapers. (The Constitutional Convention of 1902 — the one with the two plaques and the memorial oaks at the Charlotte County courthouse — was held largely to take back all the rights Black people had gained in the previous one.) In early 1869, Holmes was back in Charlotte County, working on getting schools built. On May 3, four local White men were heard bragging that they had shot a Black man and threatening to kill Holmes. When Holmes found out, he went to the courthouse to get warrants for the men’s arrests. Instead, he encountered the men there. One struck him with the butt of his pistol and then shot him in the chest. At least two more shots rang out from the group of four men. Holmes crawled from the steps and died just inside the courthouse doors.”

It also says, “Lisa Henderson is a direct descendant of Holmes’s brother, Jasper Holmes, who fled the county shortly after the murder. While growing up in North Carolina, she heard about the distant relation who was killed in Charlotte County. She tried to learn what she could about him online, but she suspected there was more. Liston, the archaeologist, moved to Charlotte County in the 1990s after purchasing a former plantation there. As she went through old papers that came with the property, she noticed the last names of people enslaved there were the same as many of her current neighbors. She started gathering their oral histories and sharing what she could find. She worked with community members to identify people buried in the Black cemetery on her property. Liston, who is White, posted her discoveries on Black genealogy websites. She began to be contacted by African Americans across the country looking for details on ancestors from Charlotte County. That’s how she heard from Henderson in 2012. Within two days, Liston had found the original statements made by witnesses of the murder, which had been misplaced for more than a century. She went on to discover most of what’s known about Holmes’s life and death, and even what happened to his killers. The killers, according to witnesses, were the brothers John Marshall and Griffin Stith Marshall, their cousin William T. Boyd and a friend named Macon C. Morris. The brothers were the sons of Judge Hunter Holmes Marshall and grew up on the Roxabel plantation. Three of the men were eventually indicted for Holmes’s murder, but none ever stood trial. They all fled, and authorities never looked too hard for them, Liston said. News of the killing made headlines throughout the country, and even reached Australia, Liston has found in her research, but most people she knows in Charlotte County had never heard of it.”

According to the article, “Walker said the community is discussing what to do about its Confederate soldier memorial, and at a recent meeting, Walker requested the board get a price quote on what it would cost to move it behind the courthouse. Holmes died on the courthouse steps because he believed in American ideals like the rule of law, Henderson said. He was ‘working within the system’ and was at the courthouse trying to obtain a warrant when he was killed, she noted. Liston said Holmes’s murder wasn’t the only thing that made him noteworthy. ‘He was so much more than that. That murder should not define Joseph Holmes,’ she said. Fittingly, the unveiling coincides with the anniversary not of Holmes’s death, but of the day he won election to the constitutional convention.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: